Dhaka-Ctg expressway project shelved
The government has officially abandoned its decade-long plan to build an expressway on the Dhaka-Chattogram corridor, a crucial cog for the Bangladesh economy, under public-private partnership -- after shelling out Tk 100 crore on a feasibility study and getting a detailed design.
The prime minister is in favour of building a high-speed railway along the corridor instead, Abdus Sabur, the chief engineer of the roads and highways department (RHD), told The Daily Star yesterday.
The 224.64-kilometre-long rail route of Dhaka-Narayanganj-Cumilla-Feni-Chattogram route, expected to cost Tk 93,350.93 crore, has already been approved by the prime minister.
The Bangladesh Railway has completed the feasibility study and the detailed design for the country's first high-speed rail, which will bring down the journey time from the capital to the port city to just 55-73 minutes.
But the dropping of the expressway project is set to cost the government upwards of Tk 100 crore: it has to pay back the Asian Development Bank, which funded the feasibility study.
"The feasibility study saved us from wasting huge sums of money, so the amount spent on it was not a waste entirely," Shamsul Arefin, additional secretary of cabinet division, told reporters after the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, where the decision to drop the project was taken.
The government for now will construct a service lane on the existing four-lane Dhaka-Chattogram Highway, Arefin added.
Considering the fast-growing traffic on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway, the government in 2004 took the initiative to build a road with access control.
In 2008, the ADB financed a feasibility study and a conceptual design for a four-lane Dhaka–Chattogram highway as well as an access-controlled expressway, shows documents from the Manila-based multilateral lender.
In 2009, the daily traffic volume on the highway was between 20,000 and 25,000, 40 percent of which were trucks.
The daily traffic volume was expected to increase to about 35,000 in 2020 and 66,000 in 2030, according to the documents.
In March 2013, the Economic Committee on Economic Affairs gave the approval to implement the project under PPP, and in the following month, the government signed a deal with the ADB for carrying out the feasibility study and detailed design for Tk 97.87 crore.
The RHD hired a joint venture firm led by SMEC International of Australia for the works. The firm submitted the study report in August next year.
In October 2015, the study, which suggested three possible alignments, was placed before Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who gave consent to building the expressway comprising of elevated and at grade sections.
The construction cost for the 217-kilometre-long expressway was estimated to be $2.5 billion, sources said.
In September 2016, another joint venture firm was appointed as transaction advisor (consultants) to help the RHD implement the project under PPP.
Meanwhile, in October 2016, the Bangladesh Bridge Authority took an initiative to build an elevated expressway on the same corridor.
Later, the roads transport and bridges minister asked the BBA to drop their initiative and asked the RHD to go ahead with their plan.
The RHD took several steps to implement the project under PPP.
But, the prime minister in October 2019 gave a directive for cancelling the Dhaka-Chattogram Expressway project and constructing service lanes on either side of the four-lane highway instead, sources said.
Meanwhile, the committee approved the procurement of 9 crore syringes from a Chinese company and 50 sports utility vehicles for UNOs following the direct procurement method.
In another development, the Cabinet Committee on Government Purchase yesterday extended the tenure for importing electricity from India's Tripura for five years up to 2026.
The committee also increased the amount of electricity to 160 megawatts from 100MW, Arefin said, adding that the move will save Tk 706 crore from electricity import.
As per the new import rate, the price per kilowatt of electricity would be Tk 7.13 in the first year. The rate would rise by 2 percent per year, in contrast to 5 percent at present.
As per the existing tariff, the overall rate is Tk 7.61 per kw.