Good news for port city residents and travellers!
From now on, the journey to Chattogram Shah Amanat International Airport from Sadarghat will take less than 30 minutes -- an otherwise excruciating experience of around two hours due to perennial gridlocks.
This travel experience will not only be traffic jam-free, but also on the river Karnaphuli.
With an aim to reduce travel time of commuters, especially those who have to catch flights, this waterbus service will start next week.
According to officials, the distance between New Market and Chattogram airport is 12km while GEC intersection and the airport is 18km.
On a holiday or when the road is free of traffic congestion, one can reach the destinations within 30 minutes. But on weekdays, commuters remain stuck in gridlocks in at least eight spots. Sometimes, it takes more than two hours to reach the airport, said residents.
Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) started constructing a terminal at Sadarghat in August last year to this end, said CPA sources. A jetty was also built in Naval area of Karnaphuli Ghat-15, some 600 feet from the airport.
“A private firm -- SS Trading -- will operate the service, said Omar Faruk, secretary of CPA. Chattogram Dry Dock will monitor it, he added.
Visiting the spot in Sadarghat this week, it was seen that a two-storey terminal was constructed, which will be used as a ticket counter and waiting room for passengers.
There are also parking facilities available for commuters while a walkway goes to the jetty in front of the building beside Karnaphuli. A similar walkway and jetty was seen in Karnaphuli Ghat-15 in Naval area near the airport.
Nasir Uddin Chowdhury, former first vice president of BGMEA, said, “It’s a good initiative. While travelling to the airport, we always worry about reaching in time due to gridlocks.”
“It often takes two to three hours to reach the destination of 12km,” he said, adding, “If waterbus service starts, we can reach the airport within half an hour.”
Md Shabbab Hossain, managing director of SS Trading, said they have taken a lease of 15 years from CPA. “We will initially operate two waterbuses with a capacity of 25 passengers each,” he said. “We expect to start the service by next week.”
Asked about the fare, he said initially the ticket price is set at Tk 399. “In addition, our bus will take a passenger from Naval jetty to the airport, a five-minute ride.
Shabbab said two more waterbuses [30 seaters] will be added by December.
The distance between Sadarghat to Naval jetty is 8 nautical miles (16km); it will take 20 minutes to reach the destination.
Contacted, town planner Subhash Barua said although it is a good initiative, the authorities have to ensure a hassle-free journey to Sadarghat jetty for commuters.
“If passengers face traffic jam to go to Sadarghat, they will not be encouraged to avail the service,” said Subhash, also vice president of Forum for Planned Chattogram.
Yesterday, the authorities arranged a trial run from Sadarghat to Karnaphuli Ghat-15 in Naval area.
While taking the trip, this correspondent noticed there were life jackets for all passengers. The waterbus is air-conditioned, has ample leg and luggage space and free wifi access.
The highlight of the trip was of course watching small and medium vessels over the river as well as the surroundings from inside. Commuters were seen staying glued to the window glasses, enjoying the view.
The waterbus reached Naval jetty in 18 minutes. A bus was standby to take commuters to the airport, which took five minutes.
Engineer Md Shakhawat Hossain, chief executive officer of SS Trading, said their target is to save people’s time and money. “Our initiative will also serve the environment as around 2,000 cars will not have to travel to the airport from the city once the service starts,” he said.