The road, transport and bridges ministry has stepped back from its decision to start collecting toll from vehicles using the Dhaka-Mawa-Bhanga Expressway from July this year, as structures required for it are yet to be readied.
No fresh date was fixed to start toll collection on the 55-kilometre expressway. However, it may start when the long-cherished Padma Bridge is open to the public, which is likely to be in June next year, officials said.
Until a new vendor is assigned for this work, the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) will collect toll from two Dhaleshwari Bridges from July onwards as the tenure of the current vendor will expire in June this year.
These developments came as the Road Transport and Highway Division (RTHD) on May 11 held a meeting over the construction of infrastructures and appointing vendors for toll collection on the Dhaka-Mawa-Bhanga Expressway – the country's first ever expressway.
The meeting was called after the finance ministry last month approved a toll rate --Tk 10 per kilometre -- proposed by the division for the expressway.
A per the rate, a medium truck would have to pay Tk 550 for using the entire 55km expressway along with the toll for using the Padma Bridge once it is open to the public in June 2022.
The toll for a bus would be Tk 495 and for a car (sedan) Tk 138 as per the toll rate. There would be four exits and entrances to the expressway and the toll would be according to the exit a vehicle takes.
In September 2019, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at an Ecnec meeting instructed the authorities concerned to collect toll from long-haul vehicles on national highways.
The move gained momentum after she inaugurated the 55km expressway in March last year.
Earlier, the authorities had decided to start collecting toll on the expressway once the Padma bridge was open to the public. The authorities have not yet finalised the toll for the bridge.
However, in February this year, the RTHD decided to start toll collection from the expressway from July.
THE NEW DEVELOPMENTS
At the meeting held on May 11, the RTHD's Secretary Nazrul Islam expressed discontent as the RHD could not complete construction of the necessary infrastructure required for collecting toll, meeting sources said.
RHD officials said they could not provide the necessary amount of money to the contractor as around Tk 500 crores, allocated for this purpose, have not been released yet.
The meeting decided to send a letter to the finance ministry to immediately release the fund.
RHD officials also told the meeting they were hopeful about completing all necessary structures within September this year. However, it may take up to December to complete a roundabout at Pacchar area on the expressway.
The meeting also gave a go-ahead to the RHD's plan to collect toll from two Dhaleshwari bridges.
The RHD will be outsourcing workers in this regard and has already floated tender for it, sources said.
"Yes, we will collect toll from Dhaleshwari bridges of our own accord from July until new a vendor is appointed to collect toll from the expressway," RHD's Chief Engineer Abdus Sabur told The Daily Star on May 11.
Asked when they would start toll collection from the expressway, Sabur said, "The date has not been fixed as the necessary structures have not been readied yet."
Bangladesh Bridges Authority (BBA) has already hired the Korean Expressway Corporation and the meeting opined that it would be easier if the same vendor could be employed for toll collection on the expressway, meeting sources said.
In May 2016, the government had taken up a project to widen the 55km two-lane Dhaka-Mawa-Bhanga road into a four lane one with a budget of Tk 6,252 crore. The deadline for implementing the project was April 2019.
Later, the authority took up another project to implement toll booths on the expressway at the cost of Tk 11,003 crore – making it the most expensive road (considering per kilometre expenditure) in the country, officials said.
Still, there is some work to be completed, they said.