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177km of deadly rail tracks on the Akhaura-Sylhet route

  • Published at 12:33 am August 23rd, 2019
Akhaura-Sylhet route-Dhaka Tribune
The photo shows bamboos used to strengthen the damaged rail tracks in Akhaura-Sylhet route Dhaka Tribune

The 177-kilometre-long Akhaura-Sylhet track crosses about 250 large and small bridges built in the British colonial era, according to the engineering department of Bangladesh Railway (BR)

The decades-old railway bridges on the Akhaura-Sylhet route are in poor condition with repeated derailments, leading to fatal accidents at least seven times in the last three months.

The 177-kilometre-long Akhaura-Sylhet track crosses about 250 large and small bridges built in the British colonial era, according to the engineering department of Bangladesh Railway (BR).

The poor condition of the route is the result of decades long poor maintenance of level crossings and railway bridges. Among other issues, safety, uncertainty of arrival, delay on the route and the constant fear of an accident is leaving passengers hesitant to travel on the route and contributing to a huge loss for the railway.

The safety issue of train passengers has come to the forefront following several accidents recently, including a fatal one on June 23 at Baramchal in Kulaura upazila of Moulvibazar, which left five people dead and over a hundred others injured.

Recently, a  Dhaka-bound Upaban Express compartment went off the tracks near Maijgaon Railway Station  in Fenchuganj of Sylhet, around 11pm on Friday. With an unsuccessful attempt at repairing the lines and a delay of almost four hours, the train left the station, leaving the derailed compartment behind at around 3pm, confirmed Station Master Samanta Das. 

Regular passengers on this route expressed their frustration with the poor condition of the route and said that despite the 'Dead Stop' signs on 13 bridges, which instruct trains to stop completely before crossing, trains head for Dhaka and Chittagong without stopping at all.

Journalist Jahangir Alam, of Dakshin Surma upazila, says that thousands of train passengers face a high risk journey on this hazardous route.  He observed: "Parirchak and Maijgaon, these two areas between Sylhet and Mogla Bazar are most prone to rail accidents."

Sources said, five days after the infamous Upaban Express accident in Baramchal, Chittagong bound intercity Paharika Express was delayed for two hours due to a sudden landslide on the Baramchal Bridge.

On July 7, the Dhaka bound intercity Jayantika was disrupted when it ran into cattle on the tracks.

On July 19, two compartments of the same train service went off-track at Kulaura rail station, and the next day, the Dhaka bound Kalni Express went off-track at the same place.

Asked, Ataur Rahman, Manager of Sylhet railway station, couldn't confirm  the accidents and said the probe committee investigating the Baramchal accident might be able to provide a better perspective.

According to the railway schedule, six intercity trains -- Parabat, Jayantika, Paharika, Udayan, Upaban, and the Kalni Express -- operate on the hazardous Dhaka-Sylhet-Chattogram railway track twelve times a day. About 25,000 to 30,000 passengers use the rail route daily.