Railway East Zone: Passengers suffer as 42 trains remain suspended for over 2 years
Passengers of local commuter trains have been suffering as 42 trains on 14 routes under the Railway East Zone are yet to resume operation after suspending their services during the corona pandemic over two years ago.
The Railway authorities also cannot confirm when the trains will resume operation.
Sources said some 1.5 to 2 million passengers use the trains per year for travelling to and from different districts and upazilas for cheap. Local passengers and passenger welfare organisations have been demanding to resume the train services.
However, the authorities are not paying heed to the demand. Consequently, regular passengers of the trains are being forced to use costlier modes of transport.
Due to fuel price hikes, bus fare has marked a sharp rise, intensifying the suffering of low-income people further.
Sources said some 188 trains used to run on different routes under the East Zone before the pandemic. Of those, 48 were inter-district trains and the rest were local trains.
At the end of March 2020, the movement of all the trains was suspended following the spread of the highly-contagious coronavirus.
Eight pairs of the trains resumed operation on May 31 with different restrictions including carrying half of their capacity. The inter-district trains, however, resumed services by September 2020.
A total of 146 trains resumed services by February this year gradually. But the 42 local trains remained suspended.
The situation also resulted in a fall in income and the number of passengers on the Railway.
The total revenue earned from the East Zone in the 2021-22 fiscal has dropped by 32 per cent while the number of passengers dropped by some 25 per cent, said sources concerned.
The East Zone which comprises Dhaka, Chattogram, Sylhet and Mymensingh divisions has a total of 159 locomotives.
Two Diesel-Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) trains were introduced on the Dohazari route and those also remain off track often for different issues.
Though the Dhaka-Mymensingh, Akhaura-Sylhet, Laksham-Noakhali, Dhaka-Joydevpur, Narayanganj-Dhaka, Chattogram-Nazirhat, Chattogram-Chattogram University, Mymensingh-Dewanganj and Mymensingh-Bhairab routes are in operation, some trains of the routes also remained suspended.
The Railway Chief Operating Officer Md Shahidul Islam admitted the importance of resuming these trains.
He said many officials associated with train operations retired in the last three to four years and the posts remained vacant.
“On the other hand, sufficient locomotives and coaches are also not available. As a result, resumption of train services is getting delayed,” he said.
Shahidul also said some 20-30 locomotives are left useless, as they cannot provide proper support.
There is a possibility of adding new locomotives, and if that happens, the railway will be able to resume the local trains, he added.
Sachetan Nagarik Committee Chattogram city unit President Advocate Akhter Kabir said the unavailability of local trains in a densely populated country like Bangladesh is causing suffering to the people.
He said, “Unavailability of local trains is forcing the passengers to use buses and other costlier modes of transport.”
The civil society representative also asked to investigate whether the bus owners’ association is somehow responsible for the delay in the resumption of the train services.