Bangladesh Railway has been struggling to maintain its schedule for the last two weeks for thick fog that slows trains down. Lack of capacity and manpower added to the crisis.
Around 32 percent intercity trains, 59.58 percent mail expresses and 13.65 percent passenger trains failed to arrive or depart stations on time since December 12, according to the railway's assessment.
They were delayed on average by one to three hours, said sources in the railway.
The rail communication network was like a cycle, said Jahirul Islam, director (traffic) of the railway. If a train was delayed, it would lead to other trains failing to be on schedule, he explained.
Against such a backdrop, he said, "We have no extra coach or locomotive to adjust to the schedule. It is not possible to resolve the crisis with our limited resources."
Visiting the capital's Kamalapur railway station yesterday, the Star correspondent found that Rajshahi-bound Silk City Express was one hour and 10 minutes behind schedule while Rangpur Express was delayed for an hour.
"If any train is late for more than 30 minutes, we list it under behind-schedule category," said Sardar Shahdat Ali, divisional rail manager (DRM) of Bangladesh Railway, Dhaka.
As many as 55 intercity trains, 42 mail expresses and 60 passenger trains travel to and from Dhaka, he said.
Train communication between Dhaka and northern districts had been severely disrupted, said Abu Taher, director general of Bangladesh Railway. The trains that ply Dhaka-Chittagong route and Dhaka-Sylhet route had not experienced much trouble, he added.
Signs and signals were not clearly visible amid thick fog and that was why train crews operated the vehicles very slowly, Taher said.
Shortage of locomotives, manpower and coaches and closure of 153 railway stations had worsened the situation, officials said.
It is very urgent to increase the railway's capacity to deal with such situations, Jahirul said.
According to the railway's manual, at least 25 percent of the engines and coaches should be kept in reserve to tackle any crisis. At present, the railway has no spare resources, said DRM Sardar Shahdat Ali.
Law enforcers often stopped trains for checking, which was another reason for trains being delayed, he said. He suggested that the law enforcers should allow trains to move at the time of checking.
Many passengers were seen waiting at Kamalapur railway station yesterday noon.
Saiful Haque, a passenger of Rajshahi-bound Silk City Express, around 3:30pm said the arrival time of his train was 2:40pm.
“Now railway officials at the station cannot say exactly when the train will arrive."