Payra Bridge: Cost 3.5 times the original estimate
The long-awaited opening of the bridge over the Payra river next month will bring relief to people of the country's southern regions, but the project will also stand as an example of poor implementation of a construction scheme.
Once the 1.47-kilometre bridge over Payra river is operational, people will be able to go to Patuakhali district headquarters and the under-construction Payra Sea Port within an hour from Barishal city. They will also be able to visit popular tourist destination Kuakata within two hours.
The implementation of the project, however, has cost Tk 1,447.24 crore -- 3.5 times more than the original estimate. The project has also taken five years longer than the stipulated deadline.
A poor initial feasibility study, which led to a major change in the bridge's design, long delay in land acquisition, a lengthy tender process and, more recently, problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have kept tens of thousands of people waiting for years.
That wait will finally end next month, but the exact date has not yet been finalised.
"Payra Bridge in the Lebukhali area will be like another Padma Bridge for the people of the southern region, and the bridge will open to traffic next month," Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said yesterday, reports UNB.
He inaugurated 11 bridges in three districts under the Barishal zone of Roads and Highways Department (RHD) virtually. The RHD is also the project authority of the Payra Bridge.
Chinese firm Longjian Road and Bridge Construction is building the bridge.
The distance from Barishal city to Patuakhali headquarters is around 40km, Payra Port is 50km away and Kuakata 110km.
The government has constructed several bridges on the Barishal-Patuakhali-Kuakata highway in the last few years, but people have to cross the Payra river on ferries, which takes around an hour.
THE LONG-DELAYED PROJECT
The government approved the project for construction of the bridge on the Barishal-Patuakhali highway in May 2012.
The foreign-funded project was supposed to be completed within December 2016 at the cost of Tk 413.28 crore.
The project has jointly been funded by the government, Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development and OPEC Fund for International Development.
But in the last nine and a half years, the project cost was revised thrice, the deadline deferred twice and the project director has been changed six times.
The project cost has now risen to Tk 1,447.24 crore, which is just over 3.5 times the original estimate. The revised deadline is June 2022, with a two-year defect liability period.
A two-year defect liability period means that if a defect is found in the construction within two years of the project's completion, the contractors will fix it at their own cost.
The two-year defect liability period would start once the physical work of the project is completed, and so the formal deadline -- which takes the liability period into account -- has to be extended further. The project authority has already sought another extension.
Project Director Abdul Halim said the bridge construction work is almost done (98 percent) and he hopes to complete construction of approach roads (currently at 95 percent) before the inauguration of the bridge if the weather permits.
However, 83 percent of river training work has so far been done and the rest would take around two more months, Halim, the seventh PD of the project told The Daily Star yesterday. That will not affect the timely opening of the bridge, he added.
He however said they are expected to save Tk 52 crore from the agreed contract price.
The Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED), in its June 2020 "In-Depth Monitoring Report", mentioned the failure to acquire the land on time, frequent changes of project directors and consultants as some of the flawed aspects of the project.
REASONS FOR DELAY
Although the project was approved in May 2012, the physical work of the bridge started only in July 2016, just five months before the originally scheduled date of completion.
An RHD engineer, who is aware of project developments and preferred not to be named, said although there was a feasibility study before the approval, it was poorly done.
When the consultants prepared the detailed design, they had to change the initial design significantly, resulting in cost escalation, the engineer said.
After the detail design, the consultants prepared tender documents and as a foreign-funded project, the implementing authority has to take concurrence at every stage of the bidding process, causing further delays to start of construction, he added.
Besides, the project authority faced complexities over land acquisition and were able to acquire the entirety of the land only last year, he added.
PD Abdul Halim said at the preliminary stage, the cost of the project was estimated on the basis of a tentative design but actual construction cost was finalised following the detailed design.
"So, the cost had risen after the detailed design," he added.
Besides, they had to change the design of the piles and erect 130-metre-long piles, which also hiked costs, he added.
Besides, the Covid-19 pandemic slowed the down progress as the contractor firm is from China and much of the materials was collected from China, which was also a major reason for overshooting the initial estimate and the deadline, he added.