Looking back 2017 : Pains outnumber gains in transport sector

Shahin Akhter | Updated at 11:20am on January 04, 2018

Disappointments over the government failure to develop public-based transport system and lack of integration among agencies concerned overshadowed achievements in the sector in 2017.
Transportation experts and urban planners observe that a comfortable communications system could not be ensured due to the government’s unplanned, fragmented and project-based development with lack of foresightedness and moral lapses.
The government should implement National Integrated Multimodal Transport Policy 2013 for a sustainable development in the important sector, they suggest.
In 2017, initiatives four-lane highways, regular identification of hazardous spots on highways, Padma Rail Link Project, and introduction of new rail link with India were praised.
Contrarily, dilapidated highways and rail tracks, lack of public transports, slow infrastructure project implementation, accidents on roads and at unmanned level crossings, traffic congestion and mismanagement and neglected waterways were identified as areas of dissatisfaction.
Constructions of four-lane projects on Joydebpur-Elenga, Elenga-Rangpur and Dhaka-Mawa highways caused immense sufferings to commuters round the year.
Highways, roads, bridges, culverts and ferry terminals, especially at north-eastern and central districts, left in a bad shape by two consecutive floods this year in April and July, have not been repaired as yet on a permanent basis.
The flood situation in some northern districts was the severest for train communications in last 200 years.
In the year, Roads and Highways Department took steps to update list of ‘black spots’ on national highways on a regular basis after a decade of fatal accidents at the spots.
Last year till September, 2,024 people were killed in road accidents which were 2,463 in 2016, which belied the authorities attempt to halve the number of causalities.
In 2017, no new locomotives, carriages and wagons were added to Bangladesh Railway fleet while only nine kilometre track was constructed on Birol-Birol border section and 156.31 km track was rehabilitated on Parbatipur-Kanchan section out of railway’s 4,185 km.
As New Age reported, in 2017 at least 11 people were killed and seven were injured when trains rammed vehicles at unmanned and gate-barrier less level crossings.
Construction of the fast track project Padma Bridge Rail Link is yet to get started as loan agreement has not been signed even after signing of the commercial contract with the China Railway Group Limited on August 8, 2016.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina instructed introducing train service on the Padma Multipurpose Bridge from the day of opening, said officials.
Construction of the 6.15-km Padma Bridge on Louhajong in Munshiganj-Shariatpur and Madaripur stretch started in November 2014 and is scheduled to be completed by 2018.
The project director, Md Shafiqul Islam, said they were on track to complete the project in time with an overall project progress of 49 per cent and 52 per cent progress in construction of the main bridge till November.
No major initiatives were taken to improve the capital’s overall transport system by easing traffic congestion and improving public transport system.
In 2017, Moghbazar-Mouchak flyover project was inaugurated completely, which was severely criticised by experts for faulty design.
The waterbus service between Sadarghat and Gabtoli is limping with poor service since inauguration in 2004 amid lack of passengers.
Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology’s civil engineering department professor and safety expert Md Shamsul Hoque told New Age that in 2017 the authorities expanded rural transport sector’s infrastructures, invested in railways sector, turned highways to four-lane and identified hazardous spots.
‘The government’s unplanned and short-sighted urban infrastructural development has already done some irreversible damages,’ he observed.
He alleged the government preferred project-based work instead of developing an integrated system, reform, public transport, private-sector’s partnership and pedestrian-friendly initiatives.
‘The biggest achievement of 2017 is that the level of our moral lapse increased,’ stated urban planner Iqbal Habib, joint secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon.
He said instead of focusing on public transport system and affordable transportation system, the authorities were taking faulty initiatives like Moghbazar-Mouchak flyover.
Iqbal said it was not acceptable that Dhaka North City Corporation’s late mayor Annisul Huq’s initiatives like clearing footpaths, integrating bus companies and making U-loops would be left unimplemented in his absence.
Railways minister Mazibul Hoque told New Age that they were trying hard to sign loan agreement with Chinese EXIM Bank as soon as possible to start rail link project of Padma bridge.
He claimed that train on Khulna-Kolkata route, 80 per cent completed work of Dhaka-Chittagong double rail line project and easier visa procedure for Maitree Express passengers on Dhaka-Kolkata route were their achievements in 2017.
RHD chief engineer Ebne Alam Hasan said commuters had suffered as they were working without stopping traffic on highways.
They were yet to get any fund to start road repairs and maintenance, he added.
‘We do not have the capacity to take mentionable initiative to implement the NIMT policy for lack of manpower,’ said Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority executive director Syed Ahmed.