DTCA says no to 'VIP lane'
Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) has opposed the Cabinet Division's proposal for a lane in Dhaka roads dedicated for VIP and emergency services.
“We have submitted a report with our opinion to the Road Transport and Highways Division today [yesterday]," DTCA Executive Director Syed Ahmed said refusing to go into detail.
However, a top official of DTCA, seeking anonymity, said, “Considering the situation of the city's roads, population and ongoing works of some major projects, there is no scope for making a separate lane. We have given this opinion.
“A plan for a separate lane was not in the revised Strategic Transport Plan (STP) or any other studies. More importantly, there is not enough road space to have a separate lane. We discouraged the proposal.”
Contacted, Nazrul Islam, secretary of RTHD, said he was unaware whether DTCA sent its opinion. “It may have come. But I do not know as I was in a meeting.”
But a top official of the Road Transport and Highways Division, [RTHD] wishing anonymity, said that the report was received.
“We will send a report to the cabinet division saying that it [the dedicated lane] is not implementable,” the official said.
The Cabinet Division in December last year sent a proposal to the RTHD for a separate lane for important persons and emergency services like ambulance, fire services and law enforcers.
The move drew ire after Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam on Monday disclosed the matter, saying, "A normal request was sent from the Cabinet Division for vetting."
Explaining the rationale behind the initiative, Shafiul said the vehicles carrying VIPs often drove down the wrong side of the roads, creating traffic chaos. Besides, some countries have such lanes, he said.
While transport experts termed the proposal “unrealistic and not implementable”, rights activists said the initiative would be “unconstitutional and discriminatory.”
After receiving the proposal, RTHD sent the proposal to the DTCA seeking its opinion.
DTCA prepares strategic transport plans and provides regular supervision and co-ordination for all possible planning for transportation infrastructure development work within Dhaka and its adjacent districts.
The authority also held a discussion on the matter with officials of Dhaka city corporations, Dhaka Metropolitan Police and Rajuk on January 30.
“Most of the participants of the meeting said it [separate lane] is not possible in the present condition of the roads," DTCA Executive Director Syed Ahmed told this newspaper on Monday.
The Cabinet Division proposal comes at a time when traffic congestion in the city makes the lives of commuters miserable.
The government has taken several measures to curb traffic jam in last few years without any significant result mostly because of the increasing number of road users and vehicles.
More than 1 lakh vehicles, mostly private cars, hit the city streets every year, but the space in roads remains almost the same, creating immense pressure on the roads, experts observe.
As many as 593,077 vehicles in the capital have been registered with Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) as of 2010. The number has doubled in just seven years.
In the last 10 years, average traffic speed in Dhaka dropped from 21 kmph to 7 kmph, which is slightly above the average walking speed, says a World Bank analysis. The speed may drop to 4 kmph by 2035, slower than the average walking speed, it adds.
"Congestion in Dhaka eats up 3.2 million work hours per day. This costs the economy billions of dollars every year," says the analysis shared at a high-level international conference in Dhaka in July last year.
People, mostly VIPs, often drive down the wrong side of roads, sometimes prompting law enforcers to take action.