The authorities have acknowledged the public sufferings caused by mismanagement in the ongoing implementation of the Dhaka Bus Rapid Transit project.
But the issues have already been addressed, said Safiqul Islam, managing director of Dhaka Bus Rapid Transit Company Limited, on Thursday. By December this year, two-lane roads under the project area will be transformed into four-lane and opened for the public.
This will reduce traffic congestion, he said at a press conference organised to provide information about the work progress, challenges and the possibilities.
The government took up the country's first bus rapid transit project (BRT-3) in 2012 to ease traffic congestion on the Dhaka-Gazipur highway.
The work began in 2018. Since then, commuters have been facing difficulties in journeys from Gazipur to Abdullahpur. The project also turned into a reason for woes disrupting the entire supply chain for over 4,500 factories in the Gazipur industrial hub close to Dhaka city.
Traffic congestion on the highway seems to continue for a long time as the under-construction BRT-3 is running five years behind schedule.
It takes about 3-4 hours to reach Mohakhali from Gazipur, a distance of nearly 45km. Transport drivers and owners are also feeling the pinch as traffic jams halved their trips, slashing their earnings greatly. On top of that, the maintenance cost has gone up and each trip costs Tk500 more on fuel.
On the project time being extended, Safiqul Islam said the Planning Commission does not approve any project of more than 3-4 years' time. "They know the tenure will be revised later and we know we will have to increase it. The same thing is happening with all the large projects."
Experts say the project was based on a poor feasibility study, requiring repeated changes in designs to correct the faults during the implementation.
The estimated cost doubled from Tk2,039 crore to Tk4,268 crore.
The BRT project was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2019, but designing and planning took 2 years until 2015. Finally work began in 2018 after the hiring of a contractor and purchases of other services, Safiqul said.
"In the meantime, we had to overcome many challenges. Covid also slowed down our work. But I hope the time will not be stretched any further. We will finish the job by December 2022."
Until July, the overall progress of the project is 63%.
The authority has completed building bus depots, footpaths, drainage networks and 65 link roads that will help passengers walk to bus stops from home without hassles.
In the next one week, the authority will make a budget to buy 100 AC buses. The present price of the buses is Tk2 crore each. A total of 129 buses will be purchased as the fund becomes available.
"We will bring quality buses and maintain them properly. We will float a tender for purchasing buses in December."
Three kinds of buses – premium, AC and non-AC -- will run on the BRT lines charging separate fares.
The authority is considering introducing e-tickets. "Passengers having a ticket will be able to board a bus anytime at their convenience."
Metro rail services may also be brought under the same ticketing system. To do that, the authority is considering launching a shuttle bus service to the Uttara MRT station.
"We want to promote the private sector. That is why they will get the charge of overseeing the operations of BRT lines. We want the fare to remain unchanged [at Tk1.70 per km] now. It may be increased by 25%."