High on fare, low on service
THE government increased passenger rail fares by 50 to 115 per cent on October 1, 2012 in a bid to reduce the loss of the Bangladesh Railways, essentially due to rampant mismanagement and irregularities. Also, it promised improvement in the quality of the services. Regrettably, however, as New Age reported on Tuesday, although the railway, the largest public sector enterprise, has since been able to increase its income by one third, it has failed to make any discernible difference in terms of passenger comfort and train punctuality. As official records show, the railway earned Tk 274.77 crore from November 2012 to April 2013, up from Tk 185.93 crore from November 2011 to April 2012. On the other hand, alongside first class coaches, seats of Shobhon class, accessed mainly by the middle-income groups, still remain torn and dirty, and the toilets are unhygienic. Besides, most trains starting from the Kamalapur Station in the capital maintain an erratic schedule. Such a dismal performance by the railway, coupled with the latest fare hike, appears to have taken its toll on its popularity as a whole. According to the report, the railway has lost as many as 27 lakh passengers in a year or so. In addition, the amount of goods carried by trains has declined by 10 per cent. So did the number of parcels couriered on them by 22 per cent.
We expressed our concern after the government decided to hike the prices of train tickets on all routes in October 2012 about the decision’s adverse impact on the service’s popularity with the people, particularly those belonging to low-income groups that have long been using trains more than buses. Pertinently, our concern was based on the fact that such groups had already been struggling to make ends meet with the unabated surge in the overall cost of living ever since the incumbent government assumed office in 2009. What is, however, worrisome is that the authorities concerned appear to have taken all this for granted. Reportedly, the railway director general feels happy with the decline in the number of passengers as he deems such a situation allows the passengers to enjoy a less crowded journey. Be that as it may, the government needs to rise to the occasion and overhaul its policies about the railway having every potential to become a vibrant mode of transport.
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