Hanif Flyover fails to pay off

Dhaka,  Sun,  24 September 2017
Published : 15 Jul 2017, 00:37:37

Hanif Flyover fails to pay off

Many drivers avoid it for high toll rates, tailbacks
Adnan Hossain Bhuiyan

The Mayor Mohammad Hanif Flyover has apparently failed to serve its purpose, as many transport operators are reluctant to use it mainly because of high toll rates and nagging tailbacks at its major exit points.

The Tk 23 billion flyover, the longest one in the city, was built with a view to easing traffic congestions at the busiest exit point of the capital and allowing vehicles to reach the Dhaka-Chittagong highway in a short time without facing heavy traffic on the stretch between Gulistan and Jatrabari areas.

The flyover partly opened to public on October 11 in 2013 to facilitate smooth movement of people from and to 30 southern and south-western districts, but even after nearly four years of its inauguration, the mega structure having four lanes and six entry and seven exit ramps couldn't draw full attention of the transport operators.

Visiting several points of the 11.7 km-long flyover recently, this correspondent found that the roads under and adjacent to it were choked with buses, trucks, pickups, human haulers, rickshaws, vans in the midday, but the traffic at the key entry point of the flyover at Chankharpul was minimal.

Talking to the FE, a number of drivers who frequently use this route said they have been avoiding the much-talked-about flyover due to exorbitant toll. They prefer using even the dilapidated roads under the flyover just to save money, not the time.

The Orion Infrastructure Ltd. completed the flyover project on build-own-operate-and-transfer basis. The project was initially taken up in 1998.

Orion has funded and executed the project. A Canadian construction company designed the flyover and Indian construction firm Simplex Infrastructural Ltd. built it. The then Dhaka City Corporation supervised the entire process.

According to the agreement on the flyover construction, Orion will hand over the flyover to the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) after 24 years. During this period, the company will manage the flyover and collect toll from the users, which will help cover the construction cost.

Jamal Sheikh, a driver of a Narayanganj-bound bus operator, said, "I usually make two or three up-down trips a day. They (toll collectors) charge Tk 260 for using the flyover one time, meaning I would have to pay Tk 1,560 in toll a day if I use it."

Besides, vehicles face traffic congestions at Kutubkhali point of the flyover near Shanir Akhra almost regularly, he said, adding: "It's possible to cross the chaotic area in 10 minutes without using the flyover. Also, I can pick up some extra passengers under the flyover."

Meanwhile, most parts of the roads under the Mayor Hanif flyover are in a shambles. The roads are either dilapidated or partly grabbed by markets, shops, construction materials, parked vehicles and garbage, leaving a narrow space for the movement of traffic. This situation is still causing severe traffic congestions like in the past.

Nazma Akhter, a housewife who regularly takes her son to school by bus from Janapath intersection at Sayedabad, said the flyover was constructed to ease gridlock in the area, but the traffic jam has increased two-fold instead.

"Even there are no road signs under the flyover, which makes it difficult for us to understand which roads go where," she added.

Mansur Ali, a traffic constable posted near Tikatuli ramp of the flyover, said majority of the public transport generally use the roads under the flyover to pick up more passengers while private cars and micro-buses mostly use the flyover.

According to DSCC, the toll rate for a single trip on the flyover was set at Tk 150 for trucks with six wheels, Tk 200 for trailers, Tk 100 for trucks with four wheels, Tk 150 for buses, Tk 100 for minibuses, Tk 75 for pickup vans, Tk 50 for microbuses, Tk 40 for jeeps, Tk 35 for cars, Tk 10 for auto-rickshaws and Tk 5 for motorbikes.

However, Orion has increased the rate by around 70 to 100 per cent -- Tk 260 for trucks with six wheels, Tk 173 for trucks with four wheels, Tk 375 for trailers, Tk 260 for buses, Tk 173 for minibuses, Tk 130 for pickup vans, Tk 85 for microbuses, Tk 70 for jeeps, Tk 60 for cars, Tk 18 for auto-rickshaws and Tk 10 for motorbikes.

Several transport operators told the FE that only luxurious coaches and some long-route buses bound for Chittagong, Cox's Bazar and Sylhet use the flyover because of their affordability.

On the other hand, some human haulers and short-distance buses use the flyover to pick up passengers from several points of the flyover. Passengers climb the flyover using illegal staircases.

However, the flyover management authorities removed most of the staircases recently following a Supreme Court verdict that upheld a High Court order to remove all such staircases installed at several points of the flyover.

Orion had appealed against the High Court order, but the three-member Appellate Division bench led by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha dismissed the petition.

Driver Nure Alam of a Demra-bound human hauler, who would use the flyover but now uses the road under the flyover, said the drivers like him would pay a 'fixed amount', not toll, to the flyover operators and security personals for each trip, who then allowed them to pick up passengers from the middle of the flyover.

Dhaka Sarak Paribahan Malik Samity General Secretary Khandaker Enayet Ullah said, "In several meetings with Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) and the city corporation, we demanded that a toll rate be fixed on daily basis for passenger buses."

But the authorities have shown no interest in reconsidering toll rate, he said, adding: "Now, if any transport owner or driver thinks that avoiding the flyover is more profitable than using it, nobody can force them to do so."

Earlier, the Dhaka Sarak Paribahan Malik Samity proposed fixing a toll of Tk 520 a day for passenger buses regardless of the number of trips.

A DSCC official involved with the project, wishing not to be named, told the FE that the DSCC authorities have sent letters twice asking the Orion Group to reduce the toll rates and to explain why the toll rates had been increased without the city corporation's permission.

But the group hasn't agreed to slash toll rates. Rather, it filed an arbitration case against the DSCC, which is currently under trial.

When contacted, the flyover operator declined to make any comment over the toll rate, saying that the decision in this regard is pending before the court.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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