The Sylhet Central Bus Terminal modernisation project in the Kadamtali area of the city is running late, resulting in immense suffering for pedestrians, school-goers, and passengers of inter-district buses, trains, and other vehicles plying the roads of the area.
The implementation delay is also expected to cause a cost overrun in the World Bank-funded project that started in February 2019 involving an estimated cost of Tk117 crore.
The work on the modernisation of the terminal, covering an area of around 7.5 acres of land, was supposed to be completed by May 2021 but it faced a setback due to the Covid-19 pandemic, said officials at the Sylhet City Corporation that is implementing the project.
During a recent visit to the project site, The Business Standard found that construction work on the terminal was not finished as yet, though the main installations had already been built.
Hundreds of buses were parked across the main road next to the terminal. There was no way to walk on the road because of the vehicles.
Due to the random parking of buses along the road, no vehicles can move on this road. The whole road from Kinbridge to Humayun Rashid Chattar in South Surma looks like a big bus terminal.
Hundreds of buses are parked not only on the road but also in front of shopping malls and Sylhet Railway Station and on the open space of the station. As a result, traffic jams are a common phenomenon in this area from morning till late night. This is a situation that has been going on for almost three years.
About 500 long-distance buses leave from Sylhet Central Bus Terminal every day. More than double the number of buses plying on different inter-district routes. Vehicles of different routes, including Dhaka-Sylhet, Sylhet-Cumilla, Sylhet-Chattogram and Sylhet-Habiganj, leave from this terminal. Apart from this, coaches and minibuses of different districts of Sylhet division use the terminal.
Shariful Islam, a resident of Shibganj area of the city, came to the bus terminal to go to Habiganj for an emergency purpose. He said buses were parked all over the road in the terminal area. "This road is always congested. I am going to Habiganj for emergency work. But I could not get out of the bus terminal area in two hours," said Shariful.
Arun Deb, driver of a Dhaka-bound bus of Hanif Paribahan, said they had to face losses due to the parking of buses on the road. "It takes more than an hour to get the bus out of the terminal. I cannot reach my destination in time. We have to be involved in an altercation with our passengers for this delay," said the driver.
Ziaul Kabir Palash, general secretary of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association, Sylhet, said, "We have to count losses as the work on the modernization of the terminal has not been completed as yet. Due to huge traffic jams, buses cannot leave and enter the terminal on time. It wastes a lot of time."
In this regard, Nur Azizur Rahman, chief engineer of Sylhet City Corporation, said the work of the terminal was supposed to be completed by May 2021. But the work could not be completed in time due to the pandemic. However, the work was now going on in full swing, he said. The whole work would be completed by this June and then there would be no more suffering, he hoped.
"Now the prices of construction materials have gone up a lot. As a result, the construction cost of the terminal will also increase. However, it is not possible to say how much it will increase. It can be said when the work is finished. Moreover, the World Bank will not give any extra money. The city corporation has to make arrangements for bearing the extra cost," said the chief engineer.
He said that once the modernization work was completed, the terminal would be one of the most modern bus terminals in the country. There would be restrooms, rooms for law enforcers, toilets and safe drinking water for passengers, he continued. There will also be separate parking zones, separate entrances and exits for the buses of each route. Moreover, there will be physicians and a separate room to provide first aid to anyone who is ill or has met an accident.