Monday, June 24, 2024

Travel travails

Transport minister blames previous govt for battered road conditions
Dilapidated road condition, badly managed intersections, disrespect to traffic rules and overwhelming number of vehicles have not only turned the country’s highways extremely dangerous but also increased travel time between the capital and the rest of the country.
Most of the 20,000-kilometre network of major roads in the country has become pot-holed due to lack of maintenance for months and in many cases for years. Hundreds of kilometres of roads now require urgent repair and maintenance.
Faced with widespread criticism and blame for contributing to loss of millions of work hours and creating a major hurdle for the national growth, the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) asked for Tk 1,400 crore for the repair.
Surprisingly, the government came up with only Tk 57 crore for the current fiscal year, which, sources say, is not even enough to address the planning phase of the mammoth job. In the last fiscal year, the allocation was even lower at Tk 50 crore.
Speaking anonymously, an RHD official warned that the conditions of the country’s roads will further deteriorate and keep causing damage worth thousands of crores of taka.
Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain admitted that the money allocated is grossly inadequate. He then blamed the past government for the bad conditions of the roads.
“Current road condition cannot ensure smooth road communications, but we are trying to improve the situation,” Hossain said. “I informed the finance minister, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also directed for taking necessary measures to solve the problem.”
“Maintenance work will begin once the rainy season is over. People will see significant improvement in the road condition by the end of this year,” added the communications boss.
As tens of millions of people prepare to travel during the Eid festival at the end of Ramadan, the dilapidated roads are set to cause enormous sufferings for the home-goers.
Travel time between the capital and the rest of the country has risen beyond anybody’s guess. For instance, once it took a bus little over two hours to cover the 160-kilometre distance between Dhaka and Mymensingh. The same journey could now take up to ten hours. The same situation has slowly crept into the entire communications system in the country.
According to drivers working in different bus companies, severe congestion is occurring near every marketplace and intersection along the roads to any destination.
Within the last few months, Gazipur roundabout has become one of the most congested intersections in the country, which might take a motorist four to five hours to negotiate. The roundabout is so badly managed that tailbacks may stretch for miles in all directions.
Over the last few months the main highway towards Mymensingh has become almost unusable due to appearance of ditches and potholes on the road. Lakhs of people working in the industries along Mymensingh road are the worst sufferers, as they have to face the delay every day.
“At any major intersection along the road from or to Dhaka, we get stuck for hours, every intersection becomes a nightmare for us,” said Delwar Hossain, a bus driver of SA Paribahan. “Travel time will rise further if we do not manage these intersections properly and repair the roads immediately,” he added.
Lakhs of extremely overloaded trucks, using the roads totally unabated, are causing the greatest damage to the roads and bridges, RHD officials said. The overloading problem could not be resolved despite setting up of weigh bridges on some highways.
Sources said the two weigh bridges, one in Manikganj and the other in Chittagong, had to be shut down under pressure from various quarters including police and transport unionists.
The sources added that the rapid deterioration of the country’s road communications system is mainly due to lack of funds and investments in the sector.
Maintenance of the roads cannot be carried out regularly because the government only allocates about TK 600 crore annually for road maintenance against a requirement of
Tk 4,500 crore, said Bipul Chandra Saha, additional chief engineer (planning) of RHD.
“In some cases, urgent maintenance and repair work could not be conducted, and that inability has caused backlogs in the work,” Saha added.
Bus and truck drivers regularly commuting between the districts said bazars along the highways also cause huge delay.
“Nobody seems to care when local authorities allow bazars on the main road and we get stuck for hours with miles of tailbacks,” said Hiron Karmaker, a driver of an inter-district truck at Karwan Bazar market.
Disrespect and ignorance of the motorists regarding laws also cause serious tailbacks and accidents on the roads.
For instance, at every intersection, most motorists from all directions try to force their way for passage and end up creating gridlocks which take hours to clear.


Courtesy of The Daily Star

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