Saturday, 26 November, 2022

No reprieve from the bane in sight as BRT project likely to see further extension

No reprieve from the bane in sight as BRT project likely to see further extension
Work on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project to create a 20.5km dedicated bus corridor from Dhaka airport to Gazipur is progressing at a snail’s pace. The photo was taken recently. – Md nasir uddin

The project, which was supposed to be completed in four years, had raised city dwellers’ hopes that the nagging traffic jam of the capital would be eased after its timely implementation. However, their hopes got shattered and sufferings mounted as the project itself has been a major source of traffic gridlock for long 10 years.

And there is still no respite in sight from the woes as the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project is likely to miss the latest December 2022 deadline though the cost has already more than doubled.

The Roads and Highways Department (RHD) has sought one more year to finish the project, Planning Commission sources said.

The project to establish a 20.5km separate bus lane from Gazipur to Airport was launched in 2012 to reduce the traffic snarl-up in the city. It was supposed to be implemented by 2016.

However, the project has already seen time extension for four times and revision twice but is yet to be completed.

The BRT authorities were hopeful of completing the project by its current deadline of December. However, it might not be possible to meet the deadline as 20 percent work is yet to be completed.

Commuters have been suffering immensely, especially during the rainy season, due to the construction work which has damaged the already narrowed road, and causes unbearable traffic congestion.

At least 11 people were killed and 278 others injured in accidents in the BRT project area in the last nine years, said Save the Road, a road safety advocacy forum.

Of the deceased, five members of two families were killed as a box girder of the BRT project fell on a private car at Uttara Sector-3 after a carne got tilted while lifting the girder on August 15 last.               Besides, 180 patients died in ambulances in tailback in the project area during the period, it said.

Traffic gridlock from Dhaka airport to Tongi in Gazipur caused by the BRT project is eating up Tk 26-50 crore every day, the organisation said, adding that the traffic jam in the BRT project area is killing 13-14 working hours every day with wastage of fuel.

The initial cost of the project -- jointly funded by the government, Asian Development Bank (ADB), French Development Agency and the Global Environment Facility -- was Tk 20.38 billion, including Tk 16.50 billion loan from development partners and the rest of Tk 3.89 billion from the government fund.

It later went up to Tk 42.68 billion.

The implementation got delayed due to various problems, including changes in the scope of work and design, waterlogging in the project areas between Tongi and Joydebpur.

ADB, the major financier of the project, also expressed resentment over the accidents and the delay.

In the fresh revision proposal, the project cost has been proposed to be kept the same though its loan portion is going up by Tk 1.53 billion while the same amount is being curtailed from the government portion.

For better traffic management and reducing people’s sufferings, the pedestrian tunnel component has been proposed to be dropped alongside bringing a change to the footpath design.

About the reasons for the project revision, RHD argued that the volume of work is going up with the change in footpath’s design. The number and cost of elevated stations are also going up.

In a recent meeting on the project, the Project Evaluation Committee (PEC) of the Planning Commission has raised questions about the repeated accidents in the project area even after the project has allocation for traffic management and safety.

“PEC has sought explanation from the project director about the laxity in road safety though the project set aside Tk 55.7 million for the job,” a Planning Commission high official said, seeking not to be named.

Once completed, the 20.5km bus corridor will allow people to reach Dhaka from Gazipur in 35-40 minutes, a journey that now takes about 1.5 hours and can go up to four hours. From the airport, one can take the metro rail service to reach other parts of the capital.