50pc cost hike for delayed start

The country's first-ever fast bus lane designed to run from Dhaka airport to Gazipur will be at least 50 percent costlier with the construction expected to begin in June, four years after the government took up the project.

In 2012, the expenditure on the 20km route was estimated at Tk 2,040 crore, which has gone up by at least Tk 1,000 crore, according to project officials.

This is excluding the payment for consultancy for the extended period, staff salaries and other expenditures. Including all these, the final project cost would stand between Tk 3,500-4,000 crore, a project official said.

A lack of experience and inadequate knowledge about such infrastructure are the reasons behind the delay, according to officials from the Road Transport and Highways Division, the Bridges Division and the Local Government Engineering Department that are tasked with implementing the project.

In the last four years, prices of materials have increased by at least 30 percent, which is why more money is needed to complete the work, Project Director Afil Uddin told The Daily Star late last month before he was transferred.

Although the authorities are facing numerous challenges to implement projects like the BRT and Metro Rail, the Bridges Division has suddenly come up with a rather ambitious project to construct four subways. The initial cost of two of them has been set at over $8.1 billion.

The subway project is not even on the list of next 20 years' revised strategic transport plan.

An official of the road transport ministry said all these projects were taken up without proper study. As a result, they get little or no attention, causing delay in their implementation.

The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line-3, part of the Greater Dhaka Sustainable Urban Transport Project, will be jointly funded by the government, the Asian Development Bank, the French Agency for Development (AFD) and the Global Environment Facility.

Once in operation, the route will facilitate movement of 40,000 people between Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka and Gazipur every hour.

The design and the operation plan were finalised in December last year.

Ten international companies -- mostly from China, Korea and India -- submitted bids for the construction job. The documents were sent to the ADB headquarters in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, for evaluating the companies' eligibility.

The authorities in Dhaka expect to get back the documents with suggestions within two weeks, new Project Director AQM Ekram Ullah said on Wednesday.

"Once we get them [the documents], we will open the financial offers of the bidders," he said.

They will then select an eligible bidder and send the proposal to the cabinet committee on purchase for approval. The process is likely to take a couple of weeks from now.

Once the purchase committee approves the proposal, a work order will be issued to the lowest bidder.

It depends on the ADB and the purchase committee as to when the construction work will begin, said Afil Uddin, the immediate past project director. "We hope we will be able to start the construction in June."

But the new project chief said that it might not be possible, but that they would begin it "as early as possible".

The project work was supposed to begin in December 2014 and end this year. The revised deadline is 2018.

The BRT project will have six flyovers, four and a half kilometres of elevated road, 141 connecting roads, 12km drains, and a new 12-lane bridge in Tongi. The flyovers will be built at the airport crossing, Uttara Jasimuddin Road, Kunia, Board Bazar, Vogra, and Chourasta in Gazipur.

Under the plan, the Dhaka Bus Rapid Transit Company Limited, a government entity, will operate 120 articulated buses on the route. The buses will run between the stops every 30 seconds.

The BRT project is expected to improve connectivity between Dhaka and Gazipur and cut down travel time by at least half. There will be direct buses apart from those that will connect all the points between Dhaka and Gazipur. Depending on the services, the travel time will be 40 minutes to an hour, which now takes at least two hours by public transport.

The second phase of the BRT line-3 will stretch from the airport to Jhilmil in Keraniganj. The World Bank has already financed the designing of the proposed 22km stretch.

"The design has already been completed. Now a discussion is going on with the global lender on the funding of the project," said an official of the project.

The government also plans to introduce such fast bus lanes in Manikganj, Gazipur, Narayanganj, Munshiganj and Narsingdi as per the draft of the BRT Act-2016 approved by the cabinet last month.

Source: The Daily Star