The government has dropped the plan to operate articulated buses on the Gazipur-Airport Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route. The new plan now is to put into service high-quality buses under public private partnership.
A separate company will be formed to operate 50 to 70 spacious buses under the ownership of the government and private companies.
The service will begin after completion of the BRT-3 work in June 2022, officials said.
"Three types of buses will be there considering commuters from high, middle and low income groups," said Safiqul Islam, managing director of Dhaka Bus Transit Limited.
Private companies will team up with the government to operate these buses on the BRT-3 lane, but distribution of shares has not been fixed yet, he told The Business Standard.
The private transport operators also expressed their willingness to join the initiative.
Khandaker Enayet Ullah, secretary general of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners' Association, said the association had put forward the proposal to the government that private bus owners should be allowed to ply their buses under the government's new company.
"In a meeting with government officials, we have told that the government should give private bus owners a scope to participate in the company. We do not know if any decision in this regard has yet been taken," said Khandaker Enayet Ullah.
"This is a good initiative. We are waiting for the government's response," Enayet Ullah told TBS yesterday.
Sultana Afroz, chief executive officer of Public Private Partnership Authority said incorporating private companies in the transport sector will be a positive outcome.
"There is an opportunity to do a lot better in Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in the transport sector. Many countries, including neighbouring India, are moving forward with such initiatives. So there can be good results in PPP in BRT," she said.
"If such an initiative is successful, more projects will come in the transport sector later," she added.
Initially, it was planned that articulated buses of 140-passenger capacity—will run on the dedicated BRT-3 lane.
This lane would have been separated from mixed traffic.
The government had planned to procure 100 such mega buses at a cost of Tk58 crore.
"But the government has moved away from this plan. Bus operation will not be in the public sector alone. BRT authority and private companies will jointly operate buses on BRT lane," Safiqul Islam, MD of BRT said last week.
Separate buses will be pressed into service to carry BRT passengers from the Airport end to various destinations in the city, he added.
Earlier, the roads and highway officials said the BRT would not proceed beyond the Airport point for now. Decisions on the next phases of the original BRT plan up to Keraniganj via Mohakhali and Sadarghat will depend on the successful run of the first phase—BRT-3, they said.
Transport experts, however, are skeptical about the benefit of a partial BRT system.
Dr Md Shamsul Hoque, professor of civil engineering, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), said, "If the BRT-3 is implemented up to Airport from Gazipur only and the government stays away from implementing the rest of the project, it will not be successful."
"As a result, commuters will have to suffer the same traffic problem for years because the main purpose of BRT was to lessen traffic congestion in the city," he added.
People concerned think that the decision based on an incomplete BRT line could impose uncertainty over the construction of BRT Line-3.
The government decided to construct five Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and two BRT lines to reduce traffic congestion in Dhaka based on the advice of the World Bank. Works on three MRTs and BRT-3 projects are undergoing as part of this decision.
BRT Gazipur-Airport project is a part of BRT Line-3 which will be constructed from Gazipur to Keraniganj's Jhilmil project. The work on the Gazipur-Airport project began in 2012. The government had planned to take separate projects from Airport to Mohakhali, Mohakhali to Sadarghat, and Sadarghat to Jhilmil.
The construction cost of Gazipur to Airport BRT line is Tk4,268.32 crore. The project completion date June 2022.
So far, the physical progress of the project is 35%. Implementation of the project is slow due to land acquisition delay and a lack of coordination among various agencies.
Road Transport and Highways Division Secretary Nazrul Islam told The Business Standard that the ministry is not thinking of extension of the Airport to Mahakhali Project for the time being only to avoid traffic jam on the busy road.
"We will think of the extension of the project following the completion of the work of Gazipur to Airport line," he added.