The railways authorities are planning another spell of passenger fare hike by 25 per cent on an average, prompting criticism that the move, without improving services, will lead to more corruption and mismanagement in the sector.
Lastly, in February 2016, the government increased train fares by 7.23 per cent on an average while in October 2012 the fare was increased by 50 per cent to 115 per cent promising improved services.
But the situation remains all the same for years on end with inadequate number of trains, schedule failure, unfriendly stations and platforms, lack of security, poor parcel and goods services and increasing number of fatal accidents at unmanned and unauthorised level-crossings still persisting.
As per Bangladesh Railway’s daily operating performance report on January 29 this year, the percentage of punctuality in intercity trains was 78 per cent, mail trains 73 per cent and local trains 87 per cent across the country.
On the same day availability of locomotives was 76.1 per cent and coaches about 80 per cent.
A report of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology’s Accident Research Institute, based on reports published in national dailies, shows that in 2018 a total of 242 people were killed and 227 injured at 232 level-crossing accidents.
In 2017, 229 people were killed and 156 injured in 211 level crossing accidents.
Railways minister Nurul Islam Sujon told New Age on Thursday that the train fares could be increased in the upcoming fiscal.
In a draft, proposal has been made to increase fares of Shobhon chairs between 23 per cent and 47 per cent and of air conditioned chairs between 40 per cent and 64 per cent on different routes.
The minimum fares of tickets of different classes have also been proposed to be increased between Tk 10 and Tk 35. A hike by 25 per cent has been proposed also for freight transportation fares.
The railways ministry recently formed a committee to prepare a proposal for increasing passenger fares.
In March, in a draft, the committee proposed to increase passenger fares by 25 per cent considering fuel costs, no hike in fares for the last three years and operations and maintenance costs.
In the proposal, the base fare was fixed at Tk 0.49 per kilometre, which is currently Tk 0.39 per kilometre.
The draft mentioned that compared with 2015-16 fiscals, fuel costs increased by 11.48 per cent, staff costs by 33.46 per cent and maintenance costs by 157.38 per cent in 2016-17 fiscals.
The proposal was placed in line with the permanent tariff measure guideline prepared 2016 under the Asian Development Bank’s condition to increase train fare every year, which was one of the major ADB conditions for its grant to the BR projects.
Indian consultancy firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers Pvt Ltd (PwC) prepared the tariff guideline.
In the proposal, minimum fare for Shulov is Tk 45, up from Tk 35, Shobhon Tk 55, up from Tk 45, Shobhon Chair Tk 65, up from Tk 50, First Seat (non-air-conditioned) at Tk 110, up from Tk 90, Snigdha (AC chair) Tk 120, up from Tk 100, AC seat Tk 130, up from Tk 110, First Berth (non-AC) Tk 130, up from Tk 110, and AC Berth Tk 165, up from Tk 130.
No increase was proposed for second common, second mail and commuter classes.
The proposal says that if the new fares come into effect, the fares will be increased mainly in upper class tickets.
The fare for AC chair on Dhaka-Sylhet route will be Tk 1,001, up from Tk 610, a 64 per cent rise.
The fare for Shobhon Chair on Dhaka-Dewanganj route will be Tk 330, up from Tk 225, a 47 per cent rise.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh president Ghulam Rahman, talking to New Age, expressed his dissatisfaction about the quality of railway’s passenger service and complained about many irregularities and corruptions in railway.
The railways authorities should improve services quality by checking irregularities and corruptions, he suggests.
‘I think hike in train fares will be acceptable only when quality of passenger services will improve, otherwise the move will increase irregularities and corruption,’ Ghulam warned.
‘In the context of widespread allegations of irregularities, inefficiency and mismanagement, the railway authorities cannot justify yet another hike of price of the poor services it provides,’ says Transparency International Bangladesh executive director Iftekharuzzaman.
They should first take long overdue effective measures to check irregularities and mismanagement as well as improve efficiency to enhance the level of satisfaction of passengers before imposing additional burden of cost of travel upon passengers, he suggests.
Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh secretary general Mozammel Hoque Chowdhury alleges that though investment increased in railway in recent years the quality of passenger services did not improve.
He also alleges that railways authorities intentionally set train schedule, such as those on Dhaka-Gazipur route, in such a way that office-goers cannot avail them and are forced to use buses.
Railways minister Nurul Islam Sujon told New Age that in future they have to increase fares to improve services. He mentioned that catering services on trains provide chicken fry for Tk 40 per piece whereas it is Tk 120 outside.
‘At first we will improve our services,’ he said, adding that they would then think about increasing the fares.
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