With two days (depending on moon sighting) to go before the Eid-ul-Fitr, the usual scene of intense homebound rush at Dhaka exit points and intolerable gridlocks on travel routes were largely missing leading to a fairly hassle-free travel for holidaymakers on Saturday.
Even during pandemic restrictions in the last two years, extreme rush of people before Eid pushed Dhaka bus and train terminals to near breaking point, whereas yesterday terminals saw comparatively little or no crowd after 10am.
Bus operators said ticket sales dropped unlike any other Eid and many buses headed to their destinations with rare empty seats.
Vehicle movement at Dhaka-Mymensingh and Dhaka-Tangail highways was slow but did not reach grinding halt and as a result there was no hours-long tailback.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader visited Mohakhali Bus Terminal on Saturday and wished holidaymakers a hassle-free Eid trip this year.
"Road conditions are much better for travel ahead of this Eid-ul-Fitr compared to any time in the past," he told reporters and added that vehicles are moving freely in Gazipur where traffic delays were common in the past.
Earlier on Friday the minister expressed a similar expectation of comfortable Eid-trips during a visit to the Gabtoli Inter-District Bus Terminal.
On Saturday, rush of homebound people was minimal at bus and launch terminals except the train terminals which were overly crowded which began to ease after 10am.
Many long-haul buses left with passengers who had booked tickets in advance with remaining seats empty.
"The flow of passengers was there until 10am. After that, no tickets were sold," Jayant Chowdhury, the Gabtoli counter master of Eagle Transport, told The Business Standard in the afternoon.
"Perhaps people are not rushing to go home this time around to avoid suffering as they have a long holiday," added Jayant.
Hanif Paribahan's counter master Md Rana said, "I have not seen such an Eid season in 14 years. With two days left till before Eid, some of our buses are going with empty seats."
Rana added that he thinks the terminal may be less crowded as most tickets were sold online.
Meanwhile, those who had not booked in advance, hopped on local buses to their destination. Many of these travellers alleged that local bus operators were charging extra.
Kaniz Fatema, one such passenger, said that she had to pay Tk300 more than the regular fare for her ticket to Bogura.
Asked about the overcharging, Sumon, the ticket seller of the bus operator Rajnigandha, said, "We are now able to operate one-way trips only. That is why I am taking a little more."
Meanwhile, there was an overflowing crowd at the railway station in the morning. Everyone started crowding at the station before the scheduled departure time of the train. In addition to the passengers with tickets, many passengers without tickets also come to the station. A section of them stood on the train's standing ticket and left for their destination. Some climbed onto the roof of the train.
The Kamlapur Railway Station on the other hand was full to the brim on Saturday morning and homebound people started coming in numbers ahead of their scheduled departure time. Many passengers, who could not avail tickets, boarded onto the trains to take the journey home standing while others opted for a riskier alternative of taking the ride on the roof.
Starting from Wednesday the rush of homebound people at the train station was the maximum on Friday and continued until yesterday morning, when most trains left on time except for Dhumketu Express and Nilsagar Express that were delayed by 40 and 45 minutes respectively.
At the Sadarghat Terminal there was no extra crowd of passengers till the afternoon. Due to the reduced number of passengers several launches were delayed.
"I have never seen an Eid like this. Passenger flow is very low unlike previous years," Sukani Taiyab Ali of MV Hasan said and added that previously they had to leave early due to the huge number of passengers.
At the Shimulia Ghat in Munshiganj and the Paturia Ghat in Manikganj there was heavy rush of homebound people. However, despite increased vehicles on roads no hours-long gridlock was reported.
BIWTC's Shimulia Ghat Manager (Commerce) Mohammad Faisal said a total of 10 ferries are currently operating.
He added that until 3pm on Saturday, over 1,000 vehicle crossed the river and through Ghat#1, which was dedicated to motorcycles, some 5,000 bikes crossed the river.
From the Paturia Ghat, about 900 buses, over 4,000 small vehicles, over 3,000 motorcycles and about 500 trucks crossed the river in 24 hours, according to BIWTC sources.
On the two Gazipur highways – Dhaka-Mymensingh and Dhaka-Dhaka-Tangail – vehicle movement did not cause usual congestion. There was occasional jam which quickly cleared.
"Vehicle movement was a bit slow in the area up to Telipara via Chandna intersection due to increased congestion in the morning," said Gazipur Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Abdullah Al Mamun.
"However, as the day progressed, the traffic became normal. Additional traffic police personnel were deployed at various points," he added.
Heavy traffic was reported at various points in the 22km area from Bangabandhu Bridge to Sirajganj Road roundabout. The congestion cleared quickly and thankfully the holidaymakers on roads did not turn into gridlocks.
Nor'wester gets in the way of Eid-trips
The Shimulia riverine port was asked to hoist Warning Signal No 2 and a Nor'wester forecast prompted authorities to halt launch movement at the route from 7pm Saturday until further notice, Shahadat Hossain, BIWTA official at the Mawa ghat told The Business Standard.
The directive prompted launch passengers to board on ferries that handled the extra rush of homebound people.
Our local correspondents contributed to this report.