• Sunday, Nov 28, 2021
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Govt mulls private operator for BRT

  • Published at 10:36 pm October 16th, 2021
An illustration of the BRT
An illustration of the BRT Courtesy

A total 130 luxury buses to be used on the route

The government plans to hire a private operator to ensure discipline in the country’s first ever Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, scheduled to open between Dhaka Airport and Gazipur in December next year.

Electric buses will also be procured under the BRT project, another first for the country.

The decision to hire the private operator and procure the electric buses will be finalized at a meeting of the Dhaka Bus Rapid Transit Company Ltd board of directors this month.

“We have decided in principle to hire a commercial operator to operate Dhaka BRT, following the outsourcing rules of the government. It will be finalized at the board meeting,” said Safiqul Islam, managing director of the company.

He added that the operator would follow a guideline and operate under the supervision of Dhaka BRT Co Ltd.

Why is it necessary to hire a commercial operator?

Currently, the state-run Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) directly operates a bus service, but it is neither popular nor profitable. Therefore, several directors have recommended hiring commercial operators at previous meetings, as many private operators make profits while providing quality service.

“As there is a shortage of manpower and technical staff at Dhaka BRT Co Ltd, we advised them to hire a commercial operator. Commercial operators must have the responsibility to make the service vibrant if they make profits,” said a board member on condition of anonymity.

Also Read- Can maiden BRT ever be a successful venture?

“Many countries, including India, depend on private operators to ensure smooth operations of BRT,” said Prof Shamsul Hoque, a prominent transport expert.

 “The Dhaka BRT should have floated an international tender to hire an operator, so that professional operators from abroad could have applied,” he told Dhaka Tribune.

Dhaka BRT Co Ltd MD Safiqul Islam said that a private operator was likely to be hired due to manpower limitations and to ensure high-quality service.

Electric buses

Currently, there are no electric buses or charging stations in Bangladesh. However, the government is considering luxury electric buses for the BRT project as it will run through a dedicated corridor.

Dhaka BRT officials said charging the buses would not be a problem as they could easily install a charging booth at the BRT depot in Gazipur.

“Electric buses will be comfortable and they don’t require quick maintenance,” said Prof Shamsul Hoque.

“However, maintenance is still a big issue in Bangladesh due to negligence and corruption. Therefore, it has also been suggested that the operator procure the buses as they will operate them, instead of going through the public procurement process,” he added  

The Bureau of Research, Testing and Consultation of Buet is the consultant for the BRT project. The Bureau recommended operating 130-160 buses under the BRT system for the 20.2km dedicated route between Dhaka Airport and Gazipur. 

Md Mosaddeq Hossain, deputy director of the Bureau, said electric buses were environment friendly so a climate fund might be used to purchase them.

Also Read- 130 luxury buses to operate in BRT corridor

The authorities plan to procure 130 luxury buses, including 50 that are electric, according to Dhaka BRT Co Ltd MD Safiqul Islam.

“Our consultant has estimated [that we will need] Tk200 crore for procuring 80 CNG-run special buses. However, the price of electric buses has not been estimated yet,” he added.

“All the buses will have the capacity to carry 70-80 passengers, as there will be space available for standing. The floors of the buses will remain at the same level as the platform of the bus stops, so passengers will not be able to get on or get down without platforms,” he added.

According to Dhaka BRT Co Ltd, the BRT would be the first AC bus service between Dhaka and Gazipur under government initiative. There are 25 stations, and some 400,000 passengers can move per day.

The journey will reportedly take 35-40 minutes.

The project’s feasibility was tested by the World Bank in 2012 and the government approved the project the same year. After missing several deadlines due to delays in construction, the authorities are now optimistic that operations will begin in 2022.

The project is being implemented with a Tk4,200 crore budget, making it one of the most expensive BRTs in the world. The Asian Development Bank has provided most of the funds.

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