• Friday, Nov 16, 2018
  • Last Update : 01:48 pm

Eid holidaymakers begin journey amid bus crisis

  • Published at 02:07 am August 20th, 2018
kamalapur railway train eid
Crowd of homegoers at the Kamalapur Railway Station ahead of Eid-ul-Azha, August 18, 2018 Rajib Dhar

According to bus owners, one third of the total number of inter-city buses remained out of service as they lack proper documentation

Long tailbacks on highways ahead of the Eid holidays are the usual scenario every year, but this year, the situation is quite the opposite because of ongoing crackdown against unfit vehicles.

According to the Dhaka Tribune correspondents in different districts, tailbacks are smaller compared to previous years. Bus owners are also operating reduced number of buses, though there is no shortage of people wanting to go home to see their near and dear ones during Eid-ul-Azha, the second most important religious festival for Muslims, scheduled to take place on Wednesday.  

However, the rush is expected to pick up from Monday, as the three-day public holidays will start from that day as well.

People started to gather at the intercity bus terminals, railway stations and launch terminals in Dhaka since Sunday morning to catch their ride home.

Many passengers who could not collect the bus and launch tickets in advance were seen crowding before the ticket counters early in the morning. At the railway stations, however, passengers who could not collect tickets simply chose to get on the train roofs.

According to bus owners, one third of the total number of inter-city buses remained out of service as they lack proper documentation.

For the last few weeks, bus owners have been scrambling to ensure their buses have fitness certificates and other related documents, following the recent student demonstrations for road safety and resulting crackdown on unfit vehicles.

About 3 million people leave Dhaka by road to celebrate Eid in their home districts every year, straining public transport during the holidays. According to passenger safety experts, buses make five times the number of trips they usually do during Eid holidays.

Ramesh Chandra Ghosh, Shyamoli Paribahan managing director and vice-president of Bangladesh Bus Truck Owners’ Association, recently told the Dhaka Tribune that they are operating 60%-70% less buses in 40 routes this year.

“About 30% of the buses would not be running was because fitness certificates of the vehicles and the licenses of drivers were in the process of being renewed,” he said.

Hanif Enterprise Chairman Md Kafil Uddin said they would also be fielding between 20-30% fewer buses than usual during the holidays due to problems with documentation.

Usually, nearly half the population of Dhaka leaves the city before every Eid, and around 55% of those homeward-bound people travel via road, according to the National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways.

Unfit vehicles, unregistered drivers to fulfil Eid transport demand

Transport operators claimed that the only way to handle the pressure at Dhaka's bus terminals is to allow vehicles without fitness and drivers without licenses to operate the public buses.

Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, a ticket seller yesterday said they would have to face much bigger crowds of people from today today (August 20) as all government and private offices will be closed for the Eid vacation.

“All the advanced tickets have already been sold,” he explained, adding that the only tickets available are those of the back seats, which are also limited in number.

Homegoers climb on to the roof of a train, risking their lives, at the Kamalapur Railway Station ahead of the Eid-ul-Azha on August 18, 2018 | Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

Preferring to remain anonymous, he also confirmed that a large number of vehicles at the Gabtoli and Kallyanpur bus terminals have no fitness certificate, but as the demand for transport is so high, the operators were forced to operate these buses illegally.

The government, on the other hand, are monitoring the situation by establishing vigilance teams and some other monitoring committees to ensure a smooth journey for passengers.

Three vigilance teams, including representatives from BRTA, Dhaka Metropolitan Police, both the city corporations in Dhaka and organizations of transport owners and workers, have been assigned to Gabtoli, Saidabad, and Mohakhali bus terminals to monitor and prevent operators from charging excess fair from passengers and vehicles carrying excess passengers.

Up until yesterday afternoon, buses from different bus terminals in Dhaka were able to leave on schedule, but representatives of some of the intercity bus services feared that they would not be able to maintain the schedule as the day progressed.

If there are no gridlocks this year, the north- and east-bound passengers will be able to have a hassle-free journey home, said multiple counter managers.

Trains behind schedule

Many of the trains from Dhaka were behind the schedule yesterday.

The Rajshahi-bound Dhumketu Express was an hour late, while the Khulna-bound Sunderban Express was over two hour late.

On the other hand, Chilahati-bound Nilsagar Express, Rangpur Express and Dinajpur Express were also late as they arrived at the station late than scheduled time.

Kamalapur Station officials said the Dhaka-bound Jamuna Express went out of order at Tejgaon level crossing around 8:30am on Saturday disrupting the train communication for an hour that delayed many other trains.

Also the Subarna Express of Dhaka-Chittagong route also went out of order at Kashba on the same day in evening, delaying the travel time of many trains.

The station officials said a total of 68 train was off to different locations yesterday including 31 intercity services, four Eid specials and the rest are local and mail train services.

Moderate crowd at Sadarghat

Sadarghat launch terminal saw a moderate number of passengers in the morning when launches to closer destinations, like to Chandpur, left the terminal.

The crowd thinned after the morning launches left, before it increased again in the afternoon.

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) officials at the terminal said a total of 98 launches were scheduled to leave Sadarghat on Monday carrying holidaymakers home.

Members of police, Bangladesh Coast Guard, Rapid Action Battalion and Bangladesh Ansar have been deployed to ensure security and control the crowd of passengers.

The BIWTC is monitoring the terminal via CCTV cameras and have made announcements to warn staff of different launch services to prevent overloading of the launches.

Passengers have also been requested not to get on launches that are already full.

About six lakh passengers travels to different northern parts of the e country using Sadarghat Launch Terminal everyday.