Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday directed the authorities concerned to impose toll on all the major highways across the country to raise funds for their maintenance.
The PM on the same occasion also expressed her annoyance at the delay in repairing of the Jashore-Khulna highway.
Her directive for bringing the country’s major highways connecting the capital and the divisions under a ‘pay system’ came at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council at the planning commission.
The fund-generating instruction came just a day after the cabinet with the prime minister in the chair approved a draft law to bring into the government exchequer the surplus funds of Tk 2,12,100 crore lying with the country’s autonomous, semi-autonomous, statutory agencies and public non-financial corporations.
The PM gave the directive as she approved a project on the maintenance of a certain portion of the Dhaka-Chittagong highway during the ECNEC meeting, said planning minister MA Mannan after the meeting.
The maintenance of the highway’s Daudkandi–Chattogram section would cost Tk 793 crore and the project was undertaken within only three years after the government upgraded the country’s busiest highway into four lanes at a cost of Tk 3,600 crore.
According to a survey by the Roads and Highways Department released in July, around 25 per cent of the 3,836-km national highways were in bad shape needing immediate maintenance.
The cost of maintenance of those portions of the highways was estimated at Tk 10,679 crore but the government has allotted only one fourth of the required money for the purpose in the current fiscal year.
Mannan said that the toll to be collected as per the PM’s directive would be used for maintenance of roads and highways.
‘The maintenance cost of roads nowadays has become unbearable,’ he said.
He also mentioned that the use of toll roads in western countries was common and such roads were called ‘users paid’ roads.
An official who looks after the ‘Toll Wing’ of the Transport and Highways Division disclosed that at present they collected toll from the bridges more than 200-metre long and a seven kilometre stretch of the Dhaka-Chittagong highway.
The tolls from the bridges and the stretch of the highway are collected through contractors appointed by the division in open tenders and the entire money is deposited into the government exchequer, said a joint secretary of the division, Mohammad Shafiqul Islam.
He said that the division would fix the next course of action only after getting the PM’s directive officially.
Replying to a question whether the collection of toll would help make the ineffective Road Maintenance Fund Board Act enacted in June 2013 active, the officials said that the board and toll roads were different (matters).
The act was passed to set up a board which would have a fund for repairing, renovating and maintaining the RHD roads and highways
As per the law, the fund will get money from the government or foreign governments or donor agencies.
Mannan told reporters that the Roads and Highways Department would designate the toll roads after examining the practices in western countries where a 200-km-long road is divided into four parts for collecting toll.
The highways division would ensure that the users only had to pay toll for using certain length of a road, he said.
The planning minister also came up with the information that the PM was very annoyed after learning that the Jashore-Khulna highway repair work was yet to be completed in three years.
She asked the officials concerned to complete the work without any further delay.
According to Mannan, the PM also gave directives to check overloading of trucks and buses in order to prevent damage of roads, establish ‘virtual court’ in jails, pay the prisoners 50 per cent of the sale proceeds of the products made by them and arrange cultivation of potato having demand aboard.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Country