July 18, 2023
DHAKA – Transport in Bangladesh is going to have a huge boost when seven mega projects open to the public in the next two to three months.
The projects include the country’s first underwater tunnel and elevated expressway.
The Dhaka-Bhanga and Khulna-Mongla rail lines, the Bangabandhu Tunnel under the Karnaphuli, and a major part of the Dhaka Elevated Expressway are expected to open in September.
The Chattogram-Cox’s Bazar rail line would be opened either in late September or early October.
In October, the opening of the second phase of metro rail line-6 (from Agargaon to Motijheel) and the partial launch of the third terminal of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport are expected.
All these are opening just months before the national election, and the ruling party is sure to showcase these across the country as evidence of its achievements.
However, not all of them will be fully functional on launch day as some work, including hiring manpower to run them, will remain incomplete. The three rail projects require over 3,000 employees and none of them have been hired yet.
Sources claim that the project authorities picked the time for the openings based on two things. They wanted to avoid August as the Awami League stays away from celebrations in the month of national mourning. They did not want to leave it too late since an election-time government may have a small cabinet.
The projects will significantly enhance transport and communications.
Transport expert Prof Hadiuzzaman said once these projects are opened, the country’s capacity to transport people and goods will multiply. They will ultimately reduce cost and travel time.
Cost and deadline overruns in most of the projects wasted public money, but the projects will deliver economic and financial benefits for a long time, he said.
“These projects will bring revolutionary changes in the country’s transport and communication sector if effective operations with skilled manpower and modern technology can be ensured,” he told The Daily Star yesterday.
He said operations of the new infrastructure, including tunnel and expressway, are complicated and the transport agencies do not have the capacity to handle them effectively.
“The capacity of the agencies has to be increased manifold …,” he added.
Six projects are being implemented with either loans from the ADB, India, China, and Japan, and the expressway is being built with foreign investments. All seven projects, however, saw cost and deadline overruns.
Work on the 9.1km Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel under the Karnaphuli is almost done.
“We are planning to open the tunnel in September ensuring all safety and security,” said Monjur Hossain, executive director of Bangladesh Bridge Authority, the implementing agency of the project.
Work on installing under-vehicle scanners is expected to be completed by this month, the last major works before the opening, he told this newspaper on July 13.
The BBA has already hired a contractor for running and maintaining the tunnel and fixed tolls for vehicles.
The tunnel, the first of its kind in South Asia, will ease communications between Dhaka, Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar.
After revisions, the cost of the project rose to Tk 10,690 crore from Tk 8,446.64 crore. The project is being completed just under two years behind schedule.
DHAKA ELEVATED EXPRESSWAY
A major part of the Dhaka Elevated Expressway, the first of its kind in Bangladesh, will be opened in September, about 12 years after the project was launched.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the 11km section from the airport to Farmgate, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said on July 8.
Around 90 percent of the work for the airport to Farmgate section is done, said Project Director AHMS Akhtar.
The remaining 8.73km will be opened next year.
The project, implemented under Public Private Partnership model, is expected to ease congestion in Dhaka city.
Even though the PM inaugurated the construction work in 2011, the formal construction work began on January 1, 2020, when the 25 years of concession period for the contractor started.
In January 2011, the BBA signed a deal with a Thai company to build the expressway at a cost of Tk 8,703 crore. The deal was later revised and the cost rose to Tk 8,940 crore.
The government is to spend another Tk 4,917.57 crore on land acquisition and other work.
DHAKA-BHANGA-JASHORE RAIL LINE
The 169km rail line from Dhaka to Jashore via Padma Bridge will significantly improve rail connectivity with the southwest.
“We have a target to open the Dhaka-Bhanga section within September … ,” Project Director Afzal Hossain told this correspondent yesterday.
He said the Dhaka-Mawa section was 80 percent and the Mawa-Bhanga section was 95 percent complete until June.
The Prime Minister’s Office has asked Bangladesh Railway to complete the section by September 1, sources said.
Afzal said they would be able to open Mawa, Padma (Janjira), and Shibchar stations, out of the eight new stations between Dhaka and Bhanga, in September.
The rail line down to Jashore is expected to be built by June next year. The line will halve travel time from Dhaka.
KHULNA-MONGLA RAIL LINE
The 64.75km broad-gauge rail line between Khulna and Mongla is expected to give a big boost to internal and regional railway connectivity.
“We hope to complete the work by August and it would be ready for opening in September,” a project official said.
BR is finishing the project almost a decade behind schedule.
Even though it was initiated in 2010, the physical work began around six years after approval, driving up the project cost to Tk 4,260.88 crore from Tk 1,721.39 crore.
The line will connect Mongla Port with the rest of the country and neighbouring nations boosting trade.
CHATTOGRAM-COX’S BAZAR RAIL LINE
The dual-gauge line from Chattogram to Cox’s Bazar will connect the tourist town with the rest of the country by rail. Dhaka to Cox’s Bazar train service is being planned.
“We hope to open the 100km line by late September or early October,” Project Director Mofizur Rahman told this newspaper on July 10.
He, however, said three, out of nine new stations, may not be completed by then and that they expect all work to be done by December.
The government in 2010 had decided to lay a metre-gauge rail line from Chattogram to Gundhum in Cox’s Bazar spending Tk 1,852.35 crore. It later changed its mind and decided to have the dual-gauge line down to Cox’s Bazar town. The cost shot up to Tk 18,034.47 crore.
DHAKA METRO RAIL
The second phase–from Agargaon to Motijheel—of the country’s first metro rail will be opened in late October, Quader said on July 7, when the test runs on the line started.
Initially, Farmgate, Secretariat (Jatiya Press Club), and Motijheel stations will be opened.
The 21.26km Uttara to Kamalapur line is being implemented at a cost of Tk 33,472 crores.
HSIA 3RD TERMINAL
The terminal’s interior is now being built and, as of June, around 77 percent of the work is done.
The terminal, being implemented under a Tk 21,399 crore project, will be fully functional by 2024.
The authorities are opening the terminal partially this year.
Once opened, the airport will be able to deal with 20 million passengers a year from the existing 8 million.