Thousands of people failed to come by the means of a train journey out of Dhaka on Saturday, the first day of the advanced train ticket sale, after all the tickets allotted for the day were sold out in unbelievably quick time.
The hassle increased further in the morning due to a server error in shohoz.com, the country's largest online ticket seller, owing to massive traffic.
"I spent the night at the [Kamalapur Railway] station to secure a ticket at the earliest, but still failed," said Rony, one of the many ticket-seekers who crowded the city's central railway station.
Rony was 65th in his queue for advanced tickets for Kurigram Express, with hundreds more behind him who had also come at the station hours earlier. But all the tickets were sold out before his turn could come. The young man had spent 15 hours for a ticket he could not secure.
"We want to know how tickets can be sold out with only 62 persons. But no one here has been able to provide any satisfactory answer", a frustrated Rony told The Business Standard.
A similar situation was observed at Airport, Banani and Tejgaon railway stations and Fulbaria—where advance tickets were sold.
Meanwhile, despite a messy start, online tickets too ran out within moments, with thousands failing to even log in to the Shohoz website.
Rashedul Hasan, another ticket-seeker at Kamalapur Railway Station, said, "While standing in the line for tickets here, we also tried to enter the Shohoz website, but their server was down from 8 am to 8.49 am. After a long time when we succeeded in accessing it, we saw that all online tickets had been sold out."
Asked about this situation, Mohammad Masud Sarwar, manager of Kamalapur Railway, said, "Ticket sales began at 8 am both online and at the counters. There was an equal number of tickets on both channels."
"We learned that there were issues with online ticket purchases. We contacted the shohoz.com authorities, who said their server was jammed due to heavy traffic in the morning when everyone tried to log in to the site."
However, the Shohoz authorities in a press statement said, "Shohoz successfully handled about 5 lakh hits every minute on the first day of the buying and selling of Eid tickets. At the same time, Shohoz's ticketing system is running successfully at counters in 77 stations across the country. More than 50,000 tickets were sold in the first hour of today's sale."
"For the first time in the country's history, 1 lakh people have successfully been buying tickets, all thanks to Shohoz," said the statement.
Replying to a question about insufficient ticket counters, the railway station manager said, "There are enough ticket counters but the demand for tickets is much higher. Tickets are being sold in four other places in the capital. Still, the pressure is getting unmanageable."
He said, "For some trains,700 tickets have been allotted. Of them, 350 are being sold across the counters. But there's a line of nearly 2000 people for these tickets. Such pressure is difficult to handle. As the number of seats is limited, we can only provide a limited number of tickets."
He said a total of 27,853 tickets were allotted to be sold for the day.
Speaking about the slow ticket sale system at the counters, Sarwar said, "Buyers are required to show their NID cards or birth certificates to buy tickets in order to avoid tickets falling into the hands of black marketeers."
He added, "Each passenger is eligible to buy a maximum of four tickets."
Some of the people who were left without tickets said they will not leave the station empty-handed. Some even called on the authorities to start giving out tickets for 28 April, which is due to be available from today (Sunday).
According to the Bangladesh Railway, advance tickets for 28, 29, 30 April and 1 May will be available on 24, 25, 26 and 27 April, in that order.
Abu Saleh, who failed to secure a ticket on Saturday, said, "I stood in the queue from dawn, yet failed to secure a ticket for 27 April. Now I'll buy one for 28 April or I'm not going back home."
Demand for train tickets has surged in recent years as most home-goers try to avoid travel by road due to traffic jams and high fares.
"You have to face traffic jams while travelling by bus. It wastes your time and causes sufferings for children. But train travel does not have these issues. All the sufferings are in buying tickets," said Ratan, who gave getting a train ticket a try on Saturday.
Apart from regular intercity trains, western and Khulna-bound special train tickets are being sold at Kamalapur Railway Station, Chattogram and Noakhali special tickets at Dhaka Airport Station, Mymensingh and Jamalpur and Dewanganj tickets at Tejgaon Station, Mohonganj special tickets at Dhaka Cantonment, Sylhet and Kishoreganj tickets at Fulbaria Station.