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150 stations closed in 10yrs

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Shortage of railway station masters, booking clerks

150 stations closed in 10yrs

SHAMSUDDIN ILLIUS, Ctg
Publication Date: 18 August  2015
Media: The Independent
A total of 150 of 337 B-class stations of Bangladesh Railway (BR) have been closed in West and East Zones in the past 10 years as a result of shortages of stationmasters and booking clerks, resulting in delays in freight train operations.

BR has not been able to appoint stationmasters and booking clerks because of a legal tangle from 2006 onwards. More stations are likely to be closed every year. As 45 per cent of the B-class stations are closed, the speed of the trains is reduced. This causes trains to reach their destinations after massive delays, making it difficult to BR to maintain timetables for the freight trains.

“To operate the freight trains, large amounts of time are consumed. Such delays frequently create crises for goods-laden trains carrying important containers, such as oil-laden containers and fertilisers. That is why businessmen feel reluctant to transport goods by rail,” a high-ranking commercial official of BR East Zone said, preferring anonymity.

“Owing to the shortage of train crew, guards and linkers, the running time of the trains is rising. Owing to the delays on the way, the wagon turnout of the railways has been reduced remarkably,” said the officer.

A total of 56 B-class stations among 169 has been closed in East Zone and a total of 94 B-class stations among 166 has been closed in West Zone till May 2015, said BR sources.
Moreover, 44 D-class stations among 53 remain closed in West Zone and a total of 50 D-class stations in East Zone. Most D-class stations have remained closed in the East Zone till May 2015, BR sources also disclosed.

The government is losing massive amounts of revenue every year as no tickets are sold at these closed stations even though passengers are embarking and disembarking there.
On the other hand, some stations remain open for half the day. In such circumstances, train accidents, scheduled disruptions and apprehensions of sabotage have increased, pointed out BR officials.

For this reason, BR is facing difficulties in operating freight trains, as stations are closed and the section (distance) is comparatively long. BR authorities have to make the freight trains wait in the preceding and following stations to ensure the passengers trains run smoothly, as the speed of the freight trains is comparatively less than that of passenger trains.

Owing to the delays on the way, the trains could not reach the stations on time, which brings freight trains running on these routes to a standstill.

Khairul Alam, BR (West Zone)’s general manager, told The Independent: “Owing to the shortage of manpower, it is becoming impossible for us to operate freight trains on time. For the passengers’ trains, we have to make freight trains wait in preceding and following stations. As a result, the freight trains take a long time to reach their destinations.”

“People are reluctant to transport goods by rail as a result of the delays,” added Alam.  Mihir Kanti Guha, chief commercial officer of BR’s West Zone, also said that the private wagon turnout of BR has been reduced because of delays on the way.

In particular, it is becoming quite impossible to run container-loaded train nos. 801, 802, 803, 804 and 806 and tank-loaded train nos. 951, 961, 971, 952, 962, 982, 972 as per schedules, said Md Miajahan, chief operating superintendent (East Zone), in a letter to the BR’s director general on March 3, 2015.

Muklesur Rahman, president of the Railway Station Master and Karmochari Union (East Zone), told The Independent: “In the East Zone, a total of 666 stationmasters is supposed to perform their duties, but only 333 stationmasters are in the department at present. No stationmaster was recruited after 2006. This is the main reason why the stations are being shut down day by day.” BR (East Zone)’s general manager Mozammel Haue told The Independent: “Because of the legal tangle, we have not been able to appoint stationmasters and booking clerks for a long time. On the other hand, existing stationmasters and booking clerks go on retirement every year. As a result, stations are being closed down as a result of the dearth of manpower.”

Shamsuddin Illius
Shamsuddin Illius is a print and online media journalist. He has been working in the field (fulltime) of journalism since 2010. He is very much passionate about journalism since his early age. Currently he is the Bureau Chief-Chittagong at The Business Standard.

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