Three railway stations in Cumilla were modernised recently and two others are being renovated, but they are mostly unused.
Several officials of the Cumilla Railway region, wishing to remain unnamed, expressed their outrage, saying there are many dilapidated stations in the vicinity that see the movement of a lot of passengers but those have not been modernised.
The stations that are closed and unused have been modernised, they said.
For example, Mainamati Railway Station in Cumilla has seen extensive renovation and modernisation. It previously had a small room for signaling but has five rooms now – a VIP guest room, a guest room, a hall room, a signaling room, and the station master's room.
The station has got a spectacular foot overbridge as well, which is like a two-storey building. During the renovation, a platform with a shed was also made in the station, which remains closed for two years.
Not only Mainamati, but also the renovation of two more stations in Cumilla -- Alishwar and Lalmai -- has been completed recently. Renovation is going on at two more stations -- Sadar Rasulpur and Shashidal.
According to railway sources, the renovation of these stations is being done at a total cost of Tk10 crore.
Among the stations, Alishwar station has been closed for 15 years and Mainamati for two years. There is no longer any signaling or train stops at either of these stations.
No intercity train stops at Lalmai station, although there is signaling here. Only the Jalalabad and Nasirabad trains stop at this station. However, these trains are no longer operating at present and government revenue from this station is Tk100 or less per day.
Signaling is on at Sadar Rasulpur station, but hardly any trains stop here either. Only the Karnafuli train stops at this station. Other trains that stopped here, do not, or are no longer in service altogether.
According to sources, there is no possibility of train stops increasing at these stations in the near future, nor is more signaling likely to be revived again at these stations.
The massive modernisation of these stations has caused outrage among many people including railway officials themselves. Expressing their annoyance, many railway officials said the money has totally gone down the drain.
Sources said there are 11 stations in the Cumilla portion of the Dhaka-Chattogram and Chattogram-Sylhet rail routes. Of those, no activities including signaling have been running at the Mainamati, Alishwar, and Naoti stations. Like Mainamati and Alishwar, the Naoti station has also been modernised, but on a different model.
The Cumilla, Laksam, Nangalkot, Hasanpur, and Gunavati stations have not been modernized, despite having a large number of passengers. 14 pairs of trains, up and down, to and from, stop at Cumilla station, 16 pairs in Laksam, and eight pairs of trains stop at Nangalkot station.
Only the platforms have been expanded and the foot overbridges (which are not used) have been built at some of these stations.
Except for the Cumilla and Laksam stations, no other stations in the Cumilla portion of rail routes have security measures or are set up for buying tickets online. Tickets are sold at these stations in the traditional handwritten manner, and many rail crossings do not have gates or gatemen. Not a single Ansar member is working at other stations either.
The shiny renovation of closed and low-passenger stations alongside the mismanaged and busier stations, has caused outrage among the general population in the region.
Badrul Huda Jenu, president of the Socheton Nagorik Committee (Cumilla Chapter), said, "I am not unhappy with the modernisation of these stations. My question is, why aren't the stations that have a large number of passengers being modernised on a priority basis?"
Cumilla deputy assistant engineer (railway) Liakat Ali Mojumder says these stations have been modernised under the Dhaka-Chattogram Broad Gauge Double Line project with the future in mind. The work is supposed to be completed in June 2023.
And the other stations have not been modernised as they are not within the scope of this project, he added.
Abdul Wahab, coordinator of Max, who does overall project maintenance, said, "We are working the way the government has designed things. Maybe these are being modernised with a 100-year plan in mind."
He refused to say any more than that.