Located 37 km south of Cumilla Railway Station, Nangalkot is the fifth busiest railway station on the Dhaka-Chattogram and Chattogram-Sylhet routes. Every day, around 2,000 outbound passengers from Nangalkot travel to various destinations by intercity trains.
But, only 80 seats in intercity services are allocated at Nangalkot Station for 2,000 people from various walks of life who travel to Dhaka, Chattogram, Chandpur, Sylhet, Brahmanbaria, Sreemangal, Narsingdi and Bhairab, causing commuters a great deal of inconvenience.
Nangalkot passengers, most of whom work in Chattogram and Dhaka, prefer travelling by train, which is cheaper and is a shorter commute than bus or other means of transport. For example, it takes two hours to go to Chattogram by train, whereas it takes more than five hours by bus. Moreover, only a handful of buses are available from Nangalkot to Dhaka and Chattogram.
More than half the population of Nangalkot depend on Cumilla for higher education and treatment. It takes three hours to reach Cumilla by CNG auto-rickshaw and bus, but 45-50 minutes by train.
The Dhaka- and Cumilla-bound train passengers have increased since construction of the four-lane road on the Cumilla-Noakhali regional highway began a few years ago. Two Diesel Multiple Unit (Demu) trains used to ply these routes, which have been suspended since the lockdown.
When contacted, Ansar Ali, Commercial Manager, the Bangladesh Railway (Eastern Zone), said, "We are aware of the problem at Nangalkot Station. I will bring up the issue regarding the allocation of additional seats for Nangalkot."
Meanwhile, though some stations have been extensively modernized, tickets at Nangalkot Station are still written out by hand. Due to lack of computers and printers, there are no online seat allocations for this station. Even if passengers purchase a ticket online for another station, they cannot print the tickets here.
Nangalkot Railway Station Master Mohammad Jamal Uddin said, "Tickets worth Tk70,000 are sold every day at Nangalkot Station, which could potentially double if the allocation of seats was increased and the system was digitised.
Chairman of Nangalkot Upazila Parishad Samsuddin Kalu said, "We have made a lot of efforts to digitize Nangalkot Railway Station and increase the number of seats. Unfortunately, relevant authorities have not responded though we have reached out in writing many times. We will send proposals to the current railway minister to mitigate the issue.
On digitalisation, Ansar Ali said, "Intercity trains ply through 26 stations in the eastern zone, of which, only seven have online ticketing systems. Since Nangalkot station is crowded, there is a legitimate rationale to automate this station. I will have a meeting with the authorities about it."
The intercity trains plying through Nangalkot are the Meghna Express, the Paharika Express, the Mahanagar Express and the Chattala Express, each of which stops over in Nangalkot twice daily.
The Meghna Express stops at Nangalkot on the way to Chandpur from Chattogram and vice versa, and 20 seats are allotted against a demand of around 500 passengers. Although there is a stopover at Feni station, no tickets are allotted at Nangalkot.
The Meghna Express also stops over at Laksam and Hajiganj station on the Chandpur route from Chattogram to Nangalkot. Apart from the 10 seats allotted for Chandpur, there is no allotment of seats for any other stop at Nangalkot station.
The Paharika Express stops in Nangalkot on its way from Chattogram to Sylhet. Ten seats are allotted for Sylhet, but there are no allocations for Laksam, Cumilla, Akhaura and Sreemangal. Similarly, on the way to Chattogram via Sylhet, 10 seats are allotted from Nangalkot to Chattogram. However, there are no seats for the stopover in Feni.
Twenty seats are allocated for the Chattala Express, which stops over at Nangalkot on its way from Chattogram to Dhaka and from Dhaka to Chattogram. But there are no seat allocations for Hasanpur and Feni.
Similarly, on the way from Nangalkot to Dhaka, there are stopovers at Laksam, Cumilla, Shashidal, Kasba, Akhaura, Brahmanbaria, Ashuganj, Bhairab and Narsingdi stations, but no seats have been allotted.
The Dhaka-bound Chattala Express carries about five times more passengers than the Chattogram-bound one, which takes over 600 passengers from Nangalkot.