Tailback for Feni Overpass: Lack of traffic management plan caused it
The massive tailback due to the construction of Fatehpur rail overpass on Dhaka-Chittagong highway in Feni over the past week was expected, said a leading traffic system expert. He noted that the work lacked a traffic management plan.
“It is elementary to ensure safe and normal public and freight mobility with an alternative traffic control plan when a construction work is being carried out on such an active national highway,” said Moazzem Hossain, a professor of transport engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET).
Those in charge of the project were supposed to find alternative routes and improve them so that they could be used instead, he said. They also should have circulated public notices to make commuters aware of the situation.
“In this case, we find no such effective arrangement to avoid public suffering and the economic loss caused to the travellers stranded for long hours in the tailback,” he said. “The authorities seem to have embarked on the construction work without having worked out an alternative arrangement.”
Had there been difficulties arranging an adequate diversion route, motorists should have been warned through bulletins in television channels and newspapers, he said.
“It is just unacceptable that locals and mass media would discover tremendous public suffering only after people were stranded on the highway,” said Hossain.
The 110km-long tailback which persisted for almost five days was a result of a portion of the four-lane highway being shut down due to ongoing construction of the railway overpass.
According to official sources, a construction firm named Shipo PBL Ltd was awarded the Tk100cr work in 2012 as part of Dhaka-Chittagong highway four-lane project of the Road Transport and Bridges ministry. The construction period was three years.
Md Aftab Hossain Khan, additional chief engineer of Roads and Highways Department, who was the last director of the project, said that the government terminated the previous contract as the contractor failed to accomplish the task.
The government then entrusted Bangladesh army with the construction work and the 34 Engineering Battalion took over it in the first quarter of last year, he said.
Khan said that the construction work surely had a traffic management plan.
Asked why then such a disaster occurred, he said, “Those who are executing the scheme could answer.”
Maj Gen Md Siddiqur Rahman Sarker, engineer in chief of Bangladesh Army, told The Daily Star that they declined to take over the construction initially as the previous contractor had left it in a bad state.
The army however took it over in the last minute, as the road transport minister requested the army chief, he said.
“We tried to keep the highway functional with two lanes on one side but those broke down following heavy vehicular movement and the accompanying rain,” said Maj Gen Sarker. “We did not get the chance to repair the dilapidated alternative lanes properly, as we had to keep those in use.
“We had no other option,” he said adding that the roads and highways department should have issued public notices in this regard.
He said they would be able to open two lanes of the overpass prior to the imminent Eid-ul-Fitr and another two lanes prior to Eid-ul-Azha.
Meanwhile, in a bid to ease the situation, authorities yesterday opened one lane of the overpass for vehicular movement from Chittagong side to Dhaka.
TAILBACKS BEGIN ELSEWHERE
While the congestion in Fatehpur receded, it grew in Kanchpur, near the outskirts of the capital city yesterday.
Thousands of Dhaka-bound vehicles got stranded in a 60-km long tailback stretching from Chandina of Comilla to Kanchpur of Narayangonj for hours, reported our Comilla correspondent.
“Tailback is now 27-km long at the Comilla portion [starting] from Meghna Gumti bridge to Chandina. Vehicles remained stuck for hours on the Dhaka-Chittagang highway. Slow passing of vehicles over digital weighing scales at Daudkandi toll plaza and Meghna Bridge is the main reason for the jam,” Jibon, inspector in-charge of Eliotganj Highway Police Outpost, said.
Mukter Hossain, supervisor of Royal AC Coach, a bus operator, said “Our Bus started from Kamalapur in Dhaka at 6:00am and it reached Comilla at 2:30 pm. It took over eight hours while it normally takes two or three hours.”
Heavy vehicular movement, slow inspection at digital weight scales and use of only two lane bridges in the four-lane highway were the main reasons of jam said Abul Kalam Azad, officer-in-charge of Daudkandi Highway Police Station.
Md Zahirul Haque, in-charge of Gazaria Highway Police Outpost said vehicles were slow-moving due to the one-side facing lane control at Meghna Bridge. The situation would not improve until the construction of the three bridges is complete.