The sorry state of Dhaka-Narayanganj rail route now has turned worse, though it was the first broad-gauge rail track of the then British India government.
Some 1.4 lakh commuters use Dhaka-Narayanganj route every day, said a senior official at Bangladesh Railway.
According to commuters, they have to struggle and suffer each day to ensure a place for at least standing in a compartment due to shortage of train.
“In most cases, I’ve to travel in trains standing. Each of the seven compartments of Demu Train remains full of commuters and packed with baggage. Three people have to share a two-man seat. But, the authorities are least bothered. I think they should increase the number of compartments immediately,” said Hafiz Uddin, a passenger who travels on this route every day.
Private bank employee Sahabuddin who resides in Dhaka needs to travel to Narayanganj every working day. He shared his experience with this correspondent saying, “Usually, it should take 45 minutes to reach Narayanganj, but most of the time trains take 15 to 30 minutes extra. Sometimes, trains do not leave station in time.”
The distance between Dhaka and Narayanganj is 18 kilometers. Apart from the weekly and official holidays, 16 pairs of passenger trains make 32 up and down trips on this route from 5:30am to 11:00pm, according to sources at the Bangladesh Railway.
They said each compartment always remains full of commuters.
According to the passengers, Dhaka-Narayanganj trains are always operated taking risk due to overloading of passengers as each train carries passengers more than five times of its capacity.
“Besides, railway bogies are of very low graded ones. There’s no useable toilet and sufficient light…we’ve to travel in dark at night,” passenger Yusuf Mia told this correspondent.
Yusuf who sells clothes on a footpath in front of Dhaka’s Baitul Mukarram National Mosque said he has to travel in train every day. “Makeshift markets, fruit shops and many slums were built alongside rail tracks. I saw several times that people suffered injuries due to bamboos coming out of those establishments. Even, one day I myself sustained injury when a slum boy threw stones targeting the running train.”
Dhaka-bound passenger Al Amin, who resides in Narayanganj, said, “Train is the main way of transport for the middle-class people, especially the workers. Although millions of passengers are travelling every day, the service quality is not improving.”
He also said there is no sitting room in every railway station, and specially Narayanganj, Chashraha and Fatulla railway stations have become the hotspots of anti-social activities. And Kamalapur Railway Station is the undisclosed public spot for trading drugs, he added.
“There’re seven bogies in each train. Half of those are for passengers and half for luggage. The number of compartments in Demu train is 3. The number of seats in each compartment is 70 and in each Demu compartment only 35 to 40 people can sit,” Narayanganj Central Railway Station Master Golam Mustafa told UNB.
About the passengers’ allegations, he said the service quality of the railways remained the same as before.
“At least three 3,000 passengers travel on this route in every trip. There’re many problems with this route. Though we repeatedly informed the authorities concerned about the problems, they did not take any action,” said Md Rafiq, supervisor of a privately operated Demu train.
Farjana Mou, who was standing on a train leaving Kamlapur on Wednesday at 10:35am, complained to this correspondent that the number of seats on the train is not adequate.
Currently, there are seven stations on Dhaka-Narayanganj route. Apart from Demu trains, all other trains run under private supervision. Until 2011, rail fare was Tk 6. In 2012, it was increased to Tk 10 and then in 2014 it was fixed at Tk 15.
Although the fare was increased, the standard of service did not improve, allege passengers. It is rather getting worse day by day, some others said.unb