The traffic department of Bangladesh Railway (East Zone) is struggling to run trains smoothly due to an acute shortage of manpower.
According to railway sources, the traffic department is functioning with about half its required manpower as currently there are 1,402 employees for 2,535 sanctioned posts.
Some important posts of the department are Train Controller, Assistant Station Master, Guard, Gatekeeper, and Points-man.
At present, only four assistant station masters are employed against 70 posts, 139 guards against 299 posts, 499 points-man against 750 posts, and only 39 gatekeepers are employed against 242 posts.
Moreover, about 112 staff of the department will go on post retirement leave this year, and 88 more next year, said sources in the department. In post retirement leave, an employee will remain on leave for a year after retirement, and will get salary.
Recruitment into Bangladesh Railway has been suspended since 2006 when allegations of corruption in recruitment process rose.
Due to lack of manpower, the railway authorities have been forced to gradually shut down 50 railway stations out of 229 in the zone, which includes Dhaka, Chittagong and Moulvibazar districts.
Besides, 13 more railway stations have been partially closed -- they only operate for about eight to 12 hours daily.
A high official of the department said trains now take longer to reach their destinations as they travel at less than half their regular speed when passing through closed stations.
According to Bangladesh Railway General Rules, trains passing through closed stations should run at 16 kilometres per hour.
Normally, a train runs at a speed between 50km/h and 72km/h. This decrease in speed leads to frequent train schedule collapse, said department sources.
Md Anwar Hossain, chief personnel officer of the zone, said, “The department desperately needs manpower. We are trying to recruit new people in the department.” He said last month they recruited 16 assistant station mangers and six train controllers but they have not yet joined the workforce.