Korean joint venture may build Joydebpur-Mymensingh expressway
A South Korean joint venture is likely to be engaged in turning the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway into an expressway under a public private partnership (PPP) initiative.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs yesterday approved a proposal to convert an 87-kilometre section from Gazipur's Joydebpur to Mymensingh into an expressway under a government-to-government contract.
The committee, led by Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, gave the approval at a virtual meeting.
An expressway is a highway especially planned for high-speed traffic, usually with no or very few intersections, limited points of access or exit, and a divider between lanes for traffic moving in opposite directions.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on March 12 opened the country's first-ever expressway running from Dhaka to Faridpur's Bhanga upazila. However, users will get the full benefit of the expressway once the construction work of the Padma bridge is complete.
South Korea has already selected three companies -- SK E&C, Korean Expressway Corporation and Lotte E&C -- for implementing the Joydebpur-Mymensingh project. The SK E&C will be the lead company, said an official of the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges.
The preliminary cost of the new project has been estimated to be Tk 3,353 crore, said an official of the Roads and Highways Department (RHD), adding that the estimate may vary. As the project would not require too much land, the duration of the project will be relatively short, he said.
Under the project titled "Improvement of Dhaka (Joydebpur)-Mymensingh into Expressway with Service Lane on Both Sides through PPP," the authority aims to ensure better connectivity between the capital and Mymensingh division, where 10 economic zones will be established, said the RHD officials.
Once complete, this would be the first expressway in Bangladesh with eight lanes – four main lanes, two emergency and two service lanes, they said. It will also be the first road in the country with dedicated emergency lanes, they added.
Public Private Partnership Authority (PPPA) and Korea Overseas Infrastructure and Urban Development (KIND), a Korean organisation for providing support to global PPP businesses, signed a memorandum of understanding in April last year.
The RHD submitted two projects and South Korea so far accepted the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway project, said Shishir Kanti Routh, additional chief engineer of the RHD.
Then the RHD, following the endorsement of the PPPA and through the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges, recently sent the proposal to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs for "in-principle approval", he said.
Now, an adviser would be hired to carry out a detailed feasibility study and physical and financial assessments before the final contract is signed, he added.
Between July 2010 and June 2017, the RHD had upgraded the two-lane Dhaka-Mymensingh highway to a four-lane one spending around Tk 1,800 crore.
However, the cost of the project was Tk 902 crore when the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved the project in June 2010 and the deadline was June 2013.
But poor development project profiling forced the authority to change the cost and deadline of the project several times, according to a report of the Implementation Monitoring & Evaluation Division (IMED) of the planning ministry published in June this year.
The IMED report mentioned poor maintenance and presence of a huge number of illegal markers on the road and absence of mechanisms to control overloading as poor aspects of the project.
The report also recommended upgrading the national highway to six or eight lanes as a huge number of industrial units had developed on both sides of the road.
Besides, at least 193 intersections, 28 school zones and many markets and other structures along a 16.5 km section of the four-lane highway were slowing down traffic on the road, according to a road safety audit conducted by the RHD in 2017-2018.
The average number of vehicles running on the highway in a day in 2019 was 27,663.
Talking to The Daily Star in March this year, Shishir Kanti Routh, also a member of the RHD's PPP cell, said some 10 economic zones would be established in Mymensingh, Netrakona, Sherpur and Jamalpur districts.
There are also three or four land ports in the districts. So, the traffic on the highway would increase once the economic zones were established.
For the first time, the RHD also plans to install an Intelligent Transport System on the expressway to learn about accidents or other incidents immediately after they occur. It will allow the department to take quick action to prevent disruption to traffic flow, he added.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet Committee on Public Purchase yesterday approved four procurement and one cancellation proposals.
The four procurement proposals comprise a cost of Tk 339.26 lakh. Of it, Tk 160.29 crore will be spent from government funds while Tk 178. 98 crore will come from Asian Development Bank and domestic banks.
Of them, one involves construction of 76 flats of 1,800 square feet at Tk 160.29 crore at Azimpur government colony (zone A) for government officials while another for the procurement of 30,000 tonnes of urea fertiliser from Kafco, Bangladesh at Tk 84.63 crore.
The third is on the procurement of 25,000 tonnes of urea fertiliser from Saudi Basic Industries Corporation at a cost of Tk 56.96 crore and the last is for procurement of 25,000 tonnes of urea fertiliser for Tk 57.81 crore from Ruwais Fertilizer Industries (Fertiglobe) of the United Arab Emirates.
The cancellation proposal was on "Developing proper standards of Jhenaidah-Kushtia-Pakshi-Dashuria national highway including four lanes of Kushtia municipal part". The proposal was cancelled as only one bidder submitted tender for the project.
Responding to a question from a reporter, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said the government would give priority to businesses during the pandemic. If business cannot be saved, then the banks would not be able to recover their loans, he said.
Bangladesh Bank has extended the deadline for businesspeople to pay their loan instalments. According to Kamal, the banks made adequate profits before the pandemic, so a little loss afterwards will not lead to any massive damage.