The new direct train service between Dhaka and Rajshahi saw a dearth of passengers for non-air-conditioned coaches yesterday, as it began commercial operations on Rajshahi-Dhaka-route.
The fares of Banalata Express was set at 10 percent higher than fares of other trains on the route, and Tk 150 was added with the fare for food during the journey, said AMM Shahnewaz, chief commercial officer of west zone of Bangladesh Railway.
“Food will be provided to every passenger of Banalata Express, and the seat fare includes the cost of the food,” he told The Daily Star.
Against the Tk 340 fare for a “Shobhon chair” seat on Silk City, Padma and Dhumketu trains on the route, the fare of Banalata Express was set at Tk 525. The cost of a “Snigdha” seat in the air-conditioned coaches of the new train is set at Tk 780, against Tk 570 of other trains.
Out of total 928 seats in Banalata Express, all its 160 seats of air-conditioned coaches were sold on both routes -- Rajshahi-Dhaka and Dhaka-Rajshahi yesterday.
Among the rest 768 “Shobhon Chair” seats, 413 tickets remained unsold during the journey to Dhaka; on its way back to Rajshahi, tickets of 528 seats remained unsold.
“We did not get time for selling the tickets,” Shahnewaz said. He said they began selling the tickets for the new train only two days ahead of its launch.
Railway authorities yesterday sold some 2,500 tickets for the new train service for journeys in the next 10 days.
During a visit to Rajshahi Railway Station yesterday noon, this correspondent witnessed a queue of around 35 people buying tickets of air-conditioned coaches on different routes. At least 20 of them were in the queue for buying tickets of the new train.
One of them -- Zohrool Islam of Chapainawabganj -- said he would buy two tickets for taking his ill father to Dhaka for treatment. “As my ill father is travelling with me, I do not care if the fare is increased. Getting a ticket is all that matters to me,” he said.
Another passenger Abdul Matin said experiencing the new train was his main goal. “It’s a matter of pride to experience it.”
Aminul Islam, a student from Naogaon, was standing in another queue for a non-AC chair ticket. “Why would I spend extra money for the new train when I am getting the same at lower rates [for other trains on the route]?” he said.
The increase of fare also drew some criticism on social media.
One Fikson Islam wrote on a Facebook: “We can live with the 10 percent increase in fare, but forcing to pay for food is a punishable crime under the consumer rights law.” In his post, he expressed doubts about the quality of food.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina flagged off the train on April 25. She named the train -- running between Rajshahi and Dhaka every day but Friday -- after the heroine of Jibanananda Das’ classic poem.