Dhaka elevated expressway: Kuril to Farmgate in 10 minutes, and then…

Ramp leading down from the elevated expressway. 3 September
Tanvir Ahammed

I do not remember when I have reached Farmgate from Kuril Biswa Road in a matter of 10 minutes on a busy day. Perhaps never, other than during the Covid lockdown when the city was deserted. But today, Sunday, I did it. It was the first day on the elevated expressway, from Basundhara residential area to my workplace at Karwan Bazar.

My assignment was to report on the public experience of travelling down the expressway on the first day. When my 73-year-old mother heard that, she woke up early so she could see the expressway too. So along with my mother, I set off at 9:40 in the morning, eager to experience a trip down the elevated expressway.

There were members of the law enforcement and other officials at the entry point where the wide road from Basundhara residential area reaches the expressway. They directed us to the toll plaza. I paid 80 taka at the toll plaza and introduced myself, saying I would like to wait and observe things for some time. They asked me to park my car to one side.

Down the expressway
Naznin Akhter

The traffic was light. Cars had begun passing though the toll plaza from 6:00 in the morning. All of the vehicles were private cars, no buses or trucks. Cycles, motorbikes and CNG-run auto-rickshaws are prohibited on the expressway.

On Saturday afternoon, prime minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the 11 km expressway from Kawla to Tejgaon. The prime minister paid toll at the toll plaza, as the first passenger to cross the expressway by car.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, manager of one part of the toll plazas, Hamidul Huq, said that the road was opened to vehicles at 6:00 in the morning today, Sunday. Till 9:00om a total of 227 cars has passed though the toll barrier. When asked if any buses or trucks passed though, he said that 90 per cent of the vehicles were private cars.

While talking to Hasib Hamidul, I noticed cars were passing through, though not in large numbers. The toll payments were quick. A businessman Mahmud Quadir, who paying toll, told Prothom Alo that he was going on business to Shantinagar and was using the expressway so as to avoid the traffic jams.

Another passenger, Jyotirmoy Saha, laughed when asked the same question because he was just going for a ride with his family along the expressway, from his house at Merul Badda to Kuril Biswa Road and back.

Toll collector Mohammed Jahangir, when asked how many minutes it took to collect toll, said it was not minutes, but a matter of seconds. “It takes just 7 to 8 seconds to collect the toll,” he said. It took longer for me at the toll barrier, but certainly less than one minute. He had only calculated the time to enter the toll into the machine, not accounting for the time required for the passenger to take the money out and also to collect change.

Toll plaza at Kuril on the elevated expressway
Naznin Akhter

The toll rate is different for different vehicles. Cars, taxis, SUVs, microbuses (less then 16-seaters) and light trucks pay 80 taka. Medium size trucks (up till six-wheelers) had to pay 320 taka. Trucks (over six-wheelers) paid 400 taka. And all buses (16 seats and above) paid 160 taka.

Bangladesh bridges division is implementing this project under public-private partnership (PPP).

Bangladesh Bridges Division is implementing this project on a public private partnership basis. The bridges division has provided the land on behalf of the government. The displaced persons are being rehabilitated. Funds are being spent on consultants. Companies of Thailand and China are bearing 73 per cent of the construction costs. Bangladesh is bearing the remaining 27 per cent. According to the contract, the investors will collect their capital investment and profit from the toll over a period of 25 years. After that, it will be handed over to the Bangladesh government.

The Dhaka expressway project is divided into two – the main construction work and the affiliated work. Expenditure on the main construction has been estimated at Tk 89.40 billion. The government is bearing Tk 24.13 billion of this amount. The rest is being paid by the investing companies.

Outside of this, there is a separate project for the costs of land acquisition, rehabilitation of the displaced and consultants. The government is bearing the entire cost of this. This project cost is presently estimated at Tk 49.17 billion. The entire cost of the two projects together is Tk 138.57 billion.

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The elevated expressway has opened to public. Picture taken from Kuril.
Sazid Hossain

I climbed into the car and started off, my mother by my side. Driver Abu Bakr was driving at 60km/h. This was the speed limit fixed by the authorities. The bridges division had said that vehicles could travel at 60km/h along the main expressway and lower this to 40km/h at the ramps. Cars were traveling along the expressway and it felt good speeding down such an open and empty road.

Those who use this route in the morning on busy days are well aware of how congested the roads are. I checked the state of the traffic on Google Maps just to see how much time we were saving by using the elevated expressway. There is no way to look down across the railings to see the traffic below. The map was just a mess of red lines, meaning huge traffic jams.

I remembered travelling by train when we were kids. We would speed along and see the other vehicles halted at the railway crossings.

The surroundings seemed a little strange on the expressway. Inexperienced on this road, I wasn’t sure which areas we were crossing.

We had started out along the expressway at 10:04am. We reached Indira Road in Farmgate at 10:14am. It took us 10 minutes to cross 11.5km. I was headed for Karwan Bazar. It toll 23 minutes to travel the 2km though the congested traffic from Farmgate to Karwan Bazar.

Lastly I turned to my mother Jalowashan Akhter and asked her about her experience. She laughed and said, “I felt really good above (on the expressway). Below (Farmgate), it is such a jam!”

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