"The most importance was given to the elevated expressway after Padma bridge. The main purpose was to give relief to the city dwellers as there was fear of huge pressure due to other proposed projects in the capital at the time," Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) civil engineering department professor Shamsul Hoque told Prothom Alo.

He said the main purpose has not been fulfilled due to wasting time. On the contrary, the cost has increased.

Now questions arise how beneficial it would actually be to the city dwellers if the project is implemented, the BUET professor said.

The 20-kilometer expressway starts from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka via Banani-Tejgaon-Mogbazar-Kamalapur-Saidabad to Kutubkhali at Dhaka-Chattogram highway.

The main purpose has not been fulfilled due to wasted time. On the contrary, costs have increased. Now questions arise how beneficial it would actually be to the city dwellers if the project is implemented

According to the government estimate, vehicles will be able to run at a speed of 80 km per hour if the expressway is completed. It will take around 20 minutes to reach Kutubkhali from the airport.

There will be a total of 15 ramps to enter the expressway and 16 to exit.

Besides, there will be two connecting roads- one to Manik Mia Avenue via Farmgate and another to Palashi intersection via Kataban from the elevated expressway. People in those areas will also be benefited.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the construction on 30 April 2011. Later road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader opened the construction work twice. The cost was estimated Tk 119.20 billion at the beginng, which increased by Tk 1.38 billion.

The construction of the elevated expressway is being implemented in three parts. The first part from the airport to Banani is seven kilometres, the second part from Banani to Moghbazar railway crossing about six kilometres and the third part from the Moghbazar to Kutubkhali about six and a half kimlometres.

According to the bridges division records, the overall progress is only 28 per cent in ten years. However, the progress from the airport to Banani is 65 per cent. The work from Banani to Moghbazar is going on while the work of the remaining portion is yet to begin.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, project director AHMS Akhtar said there is a plan to inaugurate the expressway from the airport to Tejgaon by June 2022. He also said the work is hampered due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

The most importance was given to the elevated expressway after Padma bridge. The main purpose was to give relief to the city dwellers as there was fear of huge pressure due to other proposed projects in the capital at the time.
BUET civil engineering department professor Shamsul Hoque

Increase of project costs

After Awami League came to power in 2009, the elevated expressway is one of the projects undertaken under the public-private-partnership (PPP) initiative. The bridges division is implementing it.

The project is divided into to two-the main structure and the associate project. As per the agreement, the government will spend 27 per cent of the costs while the construction firm will spend the remaining 73 per cent.

In the beginning the cost was estimated Tk 87.03 billion and later increased to Tk 89.40 billion in 2013.

The government will bear the entire cost of the associate project which covers land acquisition, rehabilitation of affected people, relocation of utility services and consultancy.

In the beginning the cost was estimated at Tk 32.17 billion and increased to Tk 49.18 billion.

The bridges division sources said the cost has increased due to the delay in the implementation. The total cost jumps to Tk 138.58 billion, and there is a fear of further increase.

Italian-Thai firms mainly liable

The Thailand-based firm named Italian-Thailand Development Company is implementing the project.

The government handed over the work to the company in 2011. The work was scheduled to be completed by 2014. But the work was not started by that time.

Stakeholders said three reasons delayed the construction. Despite the agreement in 2011, there was a delay of about two years due to changes in design and land acquisition. Later, the bridges division signed a new agreement with the Italian-Thai company in the middle of 2013.

On 30 October 2014 and 16 August 2015, road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader inaugurated the project twice. But the work went slowly.

Officials said the Italian-Thai firm was given the contract and they were to spend their own money. But the company spent nine years to just collect the construction costs.

An e-mail was sent to the Italian-Thai company for their comments, but they did not respond.

Progress from the airport to Banani

While visiting the site, this correspondent found the elevated expressway from the airport to Banani visible to a large extent. Pillars have been constructed while and slabs are being laid. The land adjacent to Tejgaon railway station has been cleared by evicting a slum. Some establishments have been demolished to clear the project area. But the work from Moghbazar to Kutubkhali is yet to be visible.

Meanwhile, new complications have surfaced. In one area of the agreement, it is said the investor, who will take the foreign loan, would not have to pay taxes on interest of the loan. Moreover, the Italian-Thai company demands to buy items for the project duty-free although that was not in the condition.

On 29 June 2020, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) said it is not possible to provide tax and duty free facilities, sources said.

In February 2021, Italian-Thai applied again for tax rebate. Officials concerned said the matter is still being negotiated.

Main goal not fulfilled

A total of 220 acres of land is required to construct the elevated expressway. Of the land, only 26 acres of land are privately owned. The highest portion of land has been taken from the railway. Besides, different government agencies including the roads and highways department and RAJUK own some lands. As a result, there was scope to implement the project easily. The government also provided land to the Italian-Thai firm on easy terms.

It was agreed that the investor will collect toll for 21 years and the government will get Tk 2.72 billion as fees, not at a time but in phases.

In the agreement with the investor, a toll rate was mentioned. A private car or microbus has to pay Tk 125 if it drives the entire way. It will require Tk 100 if it exits or enters midway. It will require Tk 200 to Tk 250 for a bus.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print and online editions, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.

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