Advance tickets to be sold five days earlier, instead of ten days
Bangladesh Railway is planning to limit its operations to fight the coronavirus outbreak, and is most likely to suspend local train services.
The plan was discussed at a meeting held by Railways Minister Md Nurul Islam Sujon at Rail Bhaban in Dhaka on Wednesday, to talk about the steps taken by Bangladesh Railway in the wake of the spread of Covid-19 in the country.
The ministry, however, has not finalized the decision yet.
Railway Ministry Senior Secretary Mofazzel Hossain said: “We discussed several issues regarding railways operations to fight the coronavirus outbreak, but it was not a formal meeting.”
“We have not taken any decision about the suspension of train service yet. It can only be decided after top authorities of the government permit it,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
“There has been a gradual drop in earnings of Bangladesh Railway due to the decreasing passenger numbers since March 19, owing to the coronavirus outbreak. This is why the issue of the suspension of operations came up in the meeting,” Mofazzel added.
Bangladesh Railway insiders said the organization is planning to close down local train services initially, as they cover short distances.
Rashida Sultana Gani, Joint Director General of Bangladesh Railway, said: “Advance tickets will now be available five days prior to departure, instead of ten days. The decision will be applicable from Monday.”
According to sources of the state owned rail agency, if the government decided to cancel the train services, they would have to refund the advance ticket fare, which is why the authority has decided to decrease the time frame for buying tickets in advance.
Elsewhere, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has declared that metro services will remain completely suspended till March 31.
The government has issued instructions to avoid mass gatherings but it is not always possible at train stations. Railway employees are terrified as they handle a large number of passengers every day.
Seeking anonymity, a train station security officer said: “There is always a crowd of passengers at the platforms, ticket counters, and waiting rooms, which is creating fear in the minds of employees like us.”
Regarding this issue, Mofazzel Hossain said: “We have provided safety equipment at the major railway stations.”
“A thermal scanner has already been installed at the Kamalapur Railway Station and they will be installed at other major stations very soon. The employees are getting gloves and masks to protect themselves and we are also ensuring the use of hand sanitizers for all passengers,” he added.
The Health and Family Welfare Ministry previously recommended the Bangladesh Railway ensure that trains are hygienic before starting the journey every day.
Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Malique recently said: “Bangladesh Railway should properly clean all trains using sanitizers every day before passengers get in.”
Bangladesh Railway has started to sanitize the trains before departure since Thursday.
Mofazzel Hossain said: “We are trying to follow all the instructions provided by the Health Ministry as the coronavirus outbreak was declared a global pandemic.”
Nevertheless, many passengers claimed that hand-wash is hardly available on local trains but they are available in a few intercity train coaches.
“I didn’t find any soap, hand-wash or hand sanitizer in the restroom while travelling from Gazipur to Dhaka on the Turag train,” said Hasib Al Hasan, a passenger.
To tackle the situation, passengers sometimes bring their own sanitizers, said a railway official.
To keep the trains clean and make people aware, Bangladesh Railway has started a massive awareness campaign.
Officials said Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials have already been developed.
“We have already put up posters in all coaches of trains regarding Covid-19 to build awareness,” said Mofazzel.
“Two thousand new posters are being printed which will be displayed in prominent places,” he added.
“We have also developed audio content which will be broadcast frequently through the audio systems of the trains,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
Along with other awareness messages, people will also be requested not to gather inside the coaches to prevent the spread of the virus.
The fast spreading Covid-19 has claimed more than 13,000 lives and infected over 318,000 globally, according to Worldometer.
In Bangladesh, 27 people have tested positive for coronavirus and there have been two recorded deaths from coronavirus infection so far.