Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Launches see reduced demand ahead of Eid as people opt for road options

  • Padma Bridge boosts road travel
  • Navigational challenges compound decline in waterway passengers
  • Launches operating at half capacity due to dwindling passengers
Update : 07 Apr 2024, 07:42 PM

The allure of river journey is facing a downturn as the Padma Bridge has significantly bolstered road transport options, leading to a noticeable dip in waterway passenger numbers. This shift is particularly evident at Dhaka’s Sadarghat launch terminal, where, ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr, launch owners are in limbo over the need for special services due to reduced demand.

Navigational challenges have further exacerbated the situation, lengthening travel times and inflating operational costs for launch owners. Consequently, travellers are increasingly shunning waterways in favour of road options.

“The enhanced efficiency in road transport, exemplified by the Padma Bridge, has directly impacted passenger flow to waterway services, with our figures halving recently,” said Badiuzzaman Badal, senior vice president of the Bangladesh Inland Waterways Passenger Carrier Association (BIWPCA).

Moreover, severe traffic congestion in critical areas leading to the Sadarghat terminal has deterred potential passengers, contributing to the decline. Presently, only 50-55 launches depart daily for southwestern destinations, carrying less than half of their usual passenger loads.

Badal said unless there is an uptick in travellers, the number of operational launches will remain unchanged. However, he hinted at a possible increase in launches should an Eid holiday rush materialize.

In the past, Eid seasons saw launches operating beyond their capacity. This year, however, the scenario has drastically changed, with passenger numbers dwindling to almost half. 

Launch owners are refraining from raising fares, claiming they are committed to ensuring affordability.

Mohammad Shaheed Mia, president of the National Committee for the Protection of Shipping, Road and Railways, highlighted the longstanding reliance on waterways by people of the southwestern region, noting a significant drop in passengers from Barisal and Chandpur.

Ashish Kumar Dey, president of the Shipping and Communication Reporters Forum (SCRF), said while launch travel remains a preferred, cost-effective mode for many, its patronage has fallen by 35% to 45% over the last 18 months due to various factors.

Despite the challenges, an estimated 2.5 million people are expected to depart Dhaka via launches this Eid, according to Ashish.

Alamgir Kabir, joint director at the Bangladesh Inland Waterways Transport Authority (BIWTA), reported a subdued start to the Eid exodus at Sadarghat, with many launches operating at half capacity. 

However, optimism remains that passenger numbers may rebound as the Eid holiday draws closer.

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