Railway is the safest and most economical mode of transportation. All the governments since independence have remained negligent about this sector. The railway ministry was dissolved and the sector was merged with the road and transport ministry at one stage. The situation did not improve even after the Awami League government reinstated the ministry in 2009.
According to Prothom Alo, 92 mail, local and commuter trains are yet to operate due to the authorities’ negligence, although other modes of transportation in the country have resumed normal operations. Passenger trains were halted for almost two months due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country. Train service resumed partially keeping half of the seats empty resulting in reduction of revenue in the sector. Revenue reduced by 52 per cent in last five months while passengers decreased by 62 per cent.
As per the railway authorities, 359 passenger trains operate in the country. There are 104 inter-city trains among them, four of them operate on the Dhaka-Kolkata route. The rest of the trains operate as mail, local and commuter trains. Train service was suspended immediately after the coronavirus outbreak in March.
Although intercity trains resumed in mid-September, no decision was made about local trains. Before the pandemic, four local trains used to operate on the Mymensingh-Bhairab route and these have not been restarted after lockdown. Thousands of passengers commuted from Mymensingh and Kishoreganj through 22 railway stations by these trains. The picture is similar on the Mymensingh-Jamalpur, Bhairab-Akhaura, Chattogram- Chandpur routes.
Railway minister Nurul Islam cited shortage of staff and engines as the reason for not operating local trains. Why is there shortage of staff and engines in the railways after so many years? The problem of railways is not local and commuter trains, the problem is management
In the five months from July to November, the railway transported about 13.8 million passengers. More than 36.6 million passengers were transported at the same time last year. There is no reason to stop local trains on the pretext of losses. Railways are incurring losses of Tk 20 billion a year, of which very little is on local trains. Losses cannot be reduced by stopping the trains. On the contrary, if the scope of train service is increased, revenue will also increase. There are allegations that many passengers of local trains travel without tickets. The authorities can make arrangements for sale of advance and seasonal tickets.
Railway minister Nurul Islam cited shortage of staff and engines as the reason for not operating local trains. Why is there shortage of staff and engines in the railways after so many years? The problem of railways is not local and commuter trains, the problem is management. If the corruption and waste of the railways can be stopped, this state transport system will not have to bear the burden of losses.
We urge the government to start the halted local, mail and commuter trains of the railways immediately.