The 83-year-old rail ferry service between Balashi Ghat in Gaibandha and Bahadurabad Ghat in Jamalpur is now on its way out, with ferries remaining unused for years after the River Jamuna lost navigable depth.
Railway ferries used to ply the Balashi-Bahadurabad river route, making a link between northern districts and the rest of the country.
The passenger ferry movement on the route stopped following the opening of Bangabandhu Bridge over the Jamuna River in 1998. Since then Balashi Ghat has become useless, causing the ferries to rust away for the last 20 years.
However, railway wagon ferries had been in service, which was closed too 10 years ago.
Local people still want the resumption of the train ferry service because the communication system between the northern region of the country and the capital through the railway ferry service is easy and comfortable.
This will also expand the region's trade with Dhaka, they say.
The government can resume the rail ferry service on this route if it wants, which will benefit thousands of people in the region, said Abdur Razzak, a resident near the Balashi Ghat.
But the railway marine department is considering closing the rail ferry service and has already auctioned off five out of 11 vessels. The process of selling the remaining six is underway, according to officials.
Russel Alam, divisional mechanical engineer at Lalmonirhat Railway, said ferries are no longer in operation at Balashi Ghat due to reduced navigability. And, there is no point in resuming the rail ferry service.
The government still has to spend on maintenance and security of Balashi Ghat, he noted, adding that the railway authorities have decided to sell everything to reduce government expenses.
According to Bangladesh Railway, at first, the rail ferry service started between Tistamukh Ghat in Gaibandha's Fulchhari upazila and Bahadurabad Ghat in Jamalpur's Dewanganj Upazila in 1938, with an aim to establish rail connectivity between the northern region of the country and Dhaka.
Since then, the railway ferry service had eased communication of people in Dhaka, Chattogram, Jamalpur, Sherpur, Netrokona, Kishoreganj and Mymensingh with those in the northern districts, including Gaibandha, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari, Dinajpur, Panchagar and Thakurgaon.
Passengers as well as various types of goods were transported through this route in a short time and at a low cost.
Dinajpur was connected with Dhaka by rail following the launch of the route.
In 1990, the route later shifted from the Tistamukh Ghat to the Balashi Ghat owing to the navigability crisis on the Jamuna.
Local people said until the opening of Bangabandhu Bridge on the Jamuna River, thousands of people used to cross Tistamukh-Bahadurabad by the rail ferry daily to go to the capital from the northern region.
Ashraf Ali, 65, a resident near Balashi Ghat in Kunchipara union of Fulchhari upazila, said traders of northern districts could carry goods, including agriculture products, at a reasonable fare while the railway agon ferries were in service.
They now have to bear a higher cost for carrying goods as the ferry service has remained suspended, he added.