Bangladesh will see great strides in its transport system with a number of megaprojects expected to come to fruition by the end of the year, opening up new avenues for boosting economic growth.
From the longest railway bridge to the very first metro lines and underwater tunnel, these billion dollar infrastructure projects will help the country in its bid to achieve developed country status. by 2041.
For all the latest news, follow the Daily Star’s Google News channel.
But there have been many hurdles along the way, including a shortage of funds, complications with designs and the unprecedented crisis resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, leading to timeline revisions and increased costs.
Yet these highly anticipated ventures, involving multiple public and private actors, are expected to be open to the public this year.
Two other megaprojects, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and the very first elevated highway, are progressing well and are also expected to be commissioned by this year.
“These projects would work as precursors to the large-scale development of the country in the next phases,” Professor Shamsul Hoque, a recognized transport expert, told the Daily Star on December 20.
He added, however, “The cost overruns and time lag eclipsed the exhilaration. It also revealed that our planning was weak and our time projection was infrequent.”
BIG BRIDGE, BIG DREAM
Padma Bridge, a self-funded government project worth Tk 30,000 crore, is expected to open in June.
The 6.1 km two-level bridge across the mighty Padma had been in talks since the mid-1990s. The government approved the Tk 10,161 crore project in August 2007 to be built with assistance. donors.
The dream project became uncertain in September 2011, when major donor, the World Bank, suspended its pledged $ 1.2 billion loan over allegations of a bribery conspiracy, which were later dismissed in a Canadian court. Other donors have also canceled their funding.
Then in 2012, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made the bold decision to implement the project with equity.
The first span was installed in September 2017. The project was progressing smoothly, but it was then that the Covid-19 assault slowed progress.
The bridge, with road and rail tracks, is expected to contribute about 1.2 percent to annual GDP growth and increase economic activities for residents of the impoverished southwest region.
THE ERA OF ELECTRIC TRAINS
Bangladesh would enter the era of electric trains once the subway rail project goes into service.
The government planned to develop a network of 1,280 km of metro lines in the capital and adjacent areas by 2030 to reduce horrific traffic jams and pollution. There would be six metro lines – with elevated and underground options.
Although the idea to build rapid transit (MRT) lines first came up in 2005, the first project to build a metro rail network in the capital was approved in December 2012.
Formerly known as MRT Line 6, the first metro track is being laid from the third phase of Uttara to Motijheel at a cost of Tk 21,985 crore.
Eight trainsets have already reached Dhaka and their performance tests are underway.
Officials from Dhaka Mass Transit Company Ltd, the executing agency, said they would complete all types of testing by September to start operation of the metro in the first phase – from Uttara to Agargaon – from December.
When complete, the metro – with 16 stations – will be able to transport 60,000 people per hour, reducing the travel time between Uttara and Motijheel to around 40 minutes from the existing two hours.
Even upper-class people may consider switching modes of transportation once the metro service is operational, which could reduce the number of small vehicles on the roads – the main reason for traffic jams, Professor Shamsul said.
To connect two parts of Chattogram, the government has taken over the project to build a tunnel under the Karnaphuli River, the very first in South Asia.
The 9.1 km tunnel at a cost of Tk 10,374.42 crore will help develop a modern transport system between Dhaka, Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar, and will also be connected to the Asian highway.
Although the project was approved in November 2015, physical works began in December 2017.
The project manager recently requested a six-month extension to the current December 2022 deadline, but officials argue they would be able to open the tunnel within this year.
RELIEF FOR SUBURBAN citizens
In 2012, the government launched a project to reduce perineal traffic congestion in Dhaka by building an elevated highway as part of a public-private partnership.
After extending the deadline several times, authorities are now aiming to open part of the highway – from the airport to Tejgaon station – to the public in December.
When fully completed, the 19.73 km highway that runs from Shahjalal International Airport to Kutubkhali on the Dhaka-Chattogram Highway is expected to help people get through Dhaka without having to deal with traffic jams in the city. interior of the city.
In addition, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service from the airport to Gazipur is also expected to open in December.
The project was resumed in November 2012 for the construction of the 20.5 km bus corridor to allow people to reach Dhaka from Gazipur. It was due to be completed in December 2016, but was delayed due to various complexities.
The service would start with 100 new buses, which could carry 20,000 passengers per hour. There would be 25 stations on the corridor.
However, according to officials, meeting these deadlines certainly depends on many factors, in particular the Covid pandemic. If the Covid situation deteriorates again, it will be difficult for some projects to complete their work on time.