Despite having permission, the buses and minibuses appeared reluctant to use the recently launched elevated expressway in Dhaka.
Asked about the reasons behind the reluctance, owners of bus and minibus companies said the public transports will not get enough passengers if they commute via the high-speed facility.
The state-run transport agency, BRTC, is mulling the introduction of bus services via the expressway. However, sources within BRTC fear that this venture may not be financially viable.
As the expressway lacks bus stops along the 11-kilometer stretch, passengers with destinations in the middle of the route will reasonably avoid the facility. Additionally, there is an extra cost of tolls.
An 11-kilometer stretch from Kawla to Tejgaon of the expressway was opened to the public on 3 September, after it was inaugurated by prime minister Sheikh Hasina on the previous day. The 19.73-km expressway is expected to open fully by June next year.
The facility now allows eight types of vehicles, including buses, minibuses, sedans, microbuses, SUVs, goods-laden trucks, and pickup vans. However, it restricts vehicles with three or two wheels as well as pedestrians.
The restrictions prompted some people to allege that the Tk 138 billion-expressway is only for the rich and it will bring no benefit to the commoners.
In the first three days of operation, a total of 48,739 vehicles commuted through the expressway, generating Tk 3.9 million in revenue -- Tk 82 per vehicle. There were no significant numbers of buses or heavy trucks using the facility.
The authorities did not categorise vehicles travelling through the expressway. However, the available data suggests that there was no significant presence of buses or trucks on the facility during the first three days of operation.
The toll rates of the expressway are -- Tk 80 for cars, taxis, SUVs, microbuses, and light trucks, Tk 320 for medium-sized trucks with up to six wheels, and Tk 400 for heavy trucks. Besides, all types of bus will pay a toll of Tk 160.
If buses use the expressway, the passengers would be unable to disembark at their destinations conveniently.
As the average toll collection per vehicle now stands at Tk 82, it is understandable that no significant count of buses or trucks traveled through the expressway during the three days.
According to experts, the city dwellers generally commute at short distances, and it is no exception for Dhaka. As the expressway lacks bus stops along the 11-kilometer stretch, passengers with destinations in the middle of the route will reasonably avoid the facility. Additionally, there is an extra cost of tolls.
There are 15 ramps along the 11-km stretch, to enter or exit the expressway. Of them, two ramps are in the airport area, three in Kuril, four in Banani, three in Mohakhali, two in Bijoy Sarani, and one in Farmgate area. However, two ramps in Mohakhali and Banani will be launched later.
The owner of a bus company operating on the airport road said buses traveling short distances, such as from Gazipur or Ashulia to Mirpur, find it financially impractical to pay a toll of Tk 160 for just 3 to 4 kilometers on the expressway.
Moreover, they will not be able to take the passengers of Khilkhet and some important areas while operating through the facility.
Buses of the Abdullahpur-Gulistan and Gazipur-Azimpur routes can use the expressway. But the owners said there are five to six stoppages along the 11-km stretch and if the transports take the expressway, they will lose the passengers. Besides, the passengers of the intermediate destinations will not be able to get off the buses on the expressway.
An off-ramp is available in front of the Mohakhali bus terminal, but transport workers said passengers generally alight at several locations when traveling from distant districts to the capital. If buses use the expressway, the passengers would be unable to disembark at their destinations conveniently.