Railway authorities have shut down offices of 38 stations in the last two years much to the sufferings of commuters in the West Zone.
The officials have attributed to poor manpower and shortage of locomotives for the situation.
While the stations remain unattended by Bangladesh Railway (BR) staffs, 18 trains on both directions make stoppages at these stations away from the platforms on the alternative line, making it uneasy for most people to get on board due to the unusual height from the ground level.
At the Ansar Baria station in the district, this correspondent talked to a number of commuters who said elderly people, women, students and farmers taking their produces to the markets suffer most due to the closure of the offices. As there is no BR staff available at these stations, the tracks to the platforms have been altered and made direct on a bypass line where the trains stop.
At the station, a good number of male and female students of Rajshahi and Khulna universities get on and get off the trains everyday amid serious risks. Many are forced to look for alternative transports, which are expensive and time consuming.
Tania Aktar, a student of Rajshahi University, observed that the office at the station must be reopened immediately to restore services.
“How can you climb such a height to get on the train?” she posed.
BR sources said, more stations will be closed in the near future if sufficient staffs are not appointed as soon as possible. Train services also suffer severe setbacks in the region due to shortage of locomotives. A large number of locomotives have also become obsolete, they said.
Between Rajshahi and Khulna, out of 134 stations, 38 have been shut down. There are now 539 station masters against 868 posts while 797 posts in different sections are lying vacant for long, the sources said.
Since 2006, BR has not recruited any manpower. In 2005, so far 1200 employees were recruited. With every station being shut down, thieves are stealing valuable equipment, fixtures and fittings from the abandoned offices, they said.
Mozibur Rahman, a farmer from Jadupur village, said they are unable to take their produces to distant markets.
“These days we are forced to sell our items at low prices in the local markets,” he said.
Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) at Pakshi said, gradually more stations are getting closed due to lack of manpower. No step is being taken by the higher authorities despite several meetings, he said.
Divisional Transport Officer (DTO) Subit Kumar Biswas said, the stations have been closed due to complexity of rules to recruit new staffs in the railway department.
“We are running many stations with retired station masters on contracts,” said Biswas.
"In the coming year, the situation will be worse with at least 16 stations masters retiring,” Biswas said adding, “If replacements are not made timely, those 16 stations will be shut down.
“We have sent formal letters to the authorities concerned but to no effect yet,” he said.