It used to take an average of 2-3 hours to cross the mighty river Padma on the ferries, however, the dream project Padma Bridge has trimmed down that crossing time to less than 10 minutes.
Motor vehicles can cross river Padma from Jajira in Shariatpur to Mawa in just 7-8 minutes using the bridge.
Long queues of vehicles were seen waiting to cross the long-awaited Padma Multipurpose Bridge which opened to the public on Sunday (16 June) morning after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the 6.15-kilometre bridge on Saturday (25 June).
"The toll plazas of the bridge, on both ends, were opened for vehicles at around 5:50am," Bangladesh Bridge Authority Supervising Engineer (Bridge) Md Tofazzel Hossain said.
"At first there was some pressure due to all the motorcycles. Then the queues got longer with more buses and cars. Many were eagerly waiting to witness the Padma Bridge on its first day of operation," he added.
The long saga of sufferings and hassles of 21 southern districts came to an end with the opening of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge.
Before the opening of the bridge, commuters of the southern part of the country had to face untold sufferings as there was no direct land route between Dhaka and southern districts.
Crossing the river by ferry causes people to suffer all through the year.
Strong river currents often forced ferry ghats at Mawa, Paturia Daulatdia to postpone the crossings - leaving people in utmost hassles and endless waiting. Dense fog in winter also hampered the crossings.
During festivals like Eid and holidays, there would be terrible traffic congestion as vehicles would have to wait for the ferries for hours, even days under the open sky.
The road's inaccessibility through the mighty Padma hit emergency patients hard, with many reports of patients dying while waiting for a ferry to cross the river.
Padma Bridge will also expedite transporting goods to and from Mongla port in Bagerhat and Bhomra land port in Satkhira, facilitating export trades and easing supplies of essentials in the domestic market. Around 160 tonnes of shrimp are shipped to Dhaka every day from the Khulna region, while jute worth about Tk500 crore are exported through Mongla Port annually.
The bridge has a gas pipeline built through it which will pave the way for expanding the gas network to the south-western districts. Pipeline gas supply will encourage industrialisation and generate employment in the relatively underdeveloped region.
The Padma Bridge project has been implemented at a cost of Tk30,193.39 crore with almost 100% internal funding which is believed to bring a new world to the country's economy by connecting 21 southwestern districts through roads and railways with the capital.
Starting in 1999 with a pre-feasibility study, construction of the bridge, which has since generated numerous headlines, has had its share of delays and even courted controversy.
The construction of the main bridge was carried out by China Major Bridge Engineering Company (MBEC), a Chinese contractor Company, and the river treatment was done by Sino Hydro Corporation of China.
The prime minister formally laid the foundation stone of Padma Bridge at Mawa in Munshiganj on 4 July in 2001. The construction of the bridge was supposed to start in 2015, but the cancellation of foreign aid for it and an increasing depth of the river, among other complications, delayed the work.