The Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) will begin operating the luxury buses by 2020 between the new residential zones Purbachal and Kuril, from Dhaka Airport to Kuril, and from Kuril to Kamalapur-Motijheel through Pragati Sarani
The government is planning to buy a fleet of 390 articulated buses from Europe as part of a colour-coded service aimed at bringing more regularity and reliability to the capital’s public transport system.
The Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) will begin operating the luxury buses by 2020 between the new residential zones Purbachal and Kuril, from Dhaka Airport to Kuril, and from Kuril to Kamalapur-Motijheel through Pragati Sarani.
“We planned to initially buy 100 luxury air-conditioned articulated buses as part of a pilot colour-coded bus service in Dhaka,” Md Anisur Rahman, traffic engineer, DTCA, told the Dhaka Tribune.
“If this pilot project becomes successful, we will implement franchising transport system (colour-coded bus service) in the future.”
According to the Development Project Plan (DPP), potential operators will be required to have depots to park the buses, workshops for repair and maintenance, and offices for managerial activities.
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The DTCA presently does not have this level of infrastructure, so it is making a serious effort to procure these facilities so that they can act as the operator for the new service.
“The city development authority, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk), has already allocated land to build a bus depot in Purbachal for articulated buses,” Anisul Rahman said.
“We are also prepared to procure land for bus repair and office facilities.”
Bendy buses, bumpy roads
Although articulated buses – also known as “bendy buses” – are nothing new in Bangladesh, they are yet to gain traction due to the poor state of the country’s road network.
The state-run Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTC) bought 50 articulated buses in 2012, aiming to run services in Dhaka and other divisional cities such as Barisal and Khulna.
However, these buses are operating on only a few routes due to unfavorable road conditions.
Another proposal from the BRTC to buy a further 100 luxury buses for use only by women was rejected by the Planning Commission, also due to faulty road infrastructure in the capital.
“The length of the bendy buses operating in Dhaka is 18 metres, which creates problems on many routes,” Anisur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune.
To circumvent the issue of poor road surfaces, the DTCA is presently lobbying the Planning Commission for approval to buy more articulated buses which will only run on special routes.
“We have recommended that the new bus service will run only on dedicated lanes, under the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system,” Anisur said.
According to the plan, a series of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lanes incorporating around 80 designated stops will be built. One bus will call at each station every three minutes, with passengers required to hold pre-paid smart cards in order to board.
The existing bus operators on the proposed routes will have the option to become a partner of the franchise transportation system plan.
There are still unresolved issues surrounding the DTCA proposal, however.
As per the Revised Strategic Transport Plan (RSTP), the Pragati Sarani (Kuril-Rampura route) was selected as the route for line-1 of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) underground metro rail system, which should be completed by 2025-2030.
The MRT line was supposed to connect Purbachal and Kamalapur through Kuril, however the DTCA plan will contradict the MRT project if a new BRT line is built on the same route.
Anisur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune that the bendy buses could run as a stop gap solution until the metro rail project is completed.
“A metro rail (line) will be built through Pragati Sarani, but that project is scheduled to be completed in 2025,” Anisur said.
“If a semi-BRT is built and operated until the metro rail project is completed, it would ensure easy transportation for the people of Dhaka.”
There are also concerns that the DTCA is being too ambitious in its plan for the BRT system.
Construction work on the first BRT line between Gazipur and Dhaka Airport began in 2013, but progress stands at below 20% and the project has already missed a couple of deadlines.
Building the 20km long BRT line within the next two years could become a challenging endeavour for the government, as this particular project plan is yet to be approved by the Planning Commission.