In a surprising about-turn, the Dhaka Bus Rapid Transport Company Ltd has ditched a plan to introduce predominantly electric, or e-buses, on its under-construction Dhaka-Gazipur route. According to official documents seen by UNB, officials now plan to operate the country’s first BRT route with a preponderance of diesel buses. Out of a total of 130 buses planned to ply the 20.2-kilometre dedicated bus lane, some 100 are set to be of the highly polluting diesel-run variety, while the remaining 30 ‘might’ be e-buses. “This would be a major deviation in the project as originally electric vehicles were planned for the Dhaka-Gazipur route," a stakeholder who was strongly advocating for the use of environmentally-friendly vehicles in the scheme, told UNB. "This will not only undermine the government's commitment to reducing its carbon footprint but also further inflate the cost of the project," he adds, requesting anonymity since he anticipates continued involvement in advocacy around the project, hoping to convince the authorities to go electric one day - again. Read: Govt keen to expand digital banking, examine if digital currency could be launched Official documents show that the Dhaka BRT outlined an annual plan for the fiscal year 2022-23, in which Tk 400 crore had been earmarked specifically to procure e-buses. The government initiated the move to construct the corridor from Hazrat Shah Jalal International Airport to Gazipur, an extension of BRT line-3, in 2013. To implement the project, the Dhaka Bus Rapid Transport Company Ltd (DBRTCL) was formed as a state-owned company that same year. The plan was for articulated buses with high carrying capacity to ply these dedicated lanes. There will be provision of e-ticketing, automatic ticket counters and Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) at the stations, of which there will be 25 on the Airport-Gazipur route, for the convenience of passengers. On the project’s website, some of the earliest literature states: “Once implemented, BRT will be the country's first air-conditioned and environment-friendly, modern bus-based public transportation system. This system will carry 20,000 passengers per hour in both directions.” As recently as July 4, the project invited interested parties to submit their preliminary expression of interest (PEOI) for “Procurement of Electrically Propelled- Standard (12 meter-long) Air-Conditioned Premium Buses for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)”. Read: Healthcare system rocked by Corona struggles to cope with dengue About 40 interested parties subsequently submitted their respective proposals by the deadline of August 7, 2022. According to the invitation for PEOIs, which was published in four national newspapers including the Daily Star (a copy can be viewed on the project website), the next stage for the interested parties would be ‘International Competitive Bidding’. But instead of that, the project authorities suddenly convened a meeting of those who submitted the PEOIs through an email circulated in September. It was at this meeting that the idea to procure diesel-run buses instead of e-buses, was first floated in public. By speaking to a number of the attendees who were there on the strength of their PEOIs, UNB was able to establish that by the time this meeting ended, the idea of operating e-buses on the country’s first BRT route had been firmly chucked out. Read More: Dhaka BRT girder tragedy: Probe body find 12 reasons for the accident Instead, more detailed specifications for the kind of diesel buses they wanted were shared with the interested parties. Senior officials of the BRT project also shared that initially they would buy at least 100 units of diesel buses, out of a total requirement of 130 buses, for the route. The sudden change of heart had come up In a question-answer session that followed the meeting. Safiqul Islam, whose role in the Dhaka BRT was that of a project director in the public sector, shared that it was at the ‘request’ of the French government’s international development arm, Agence Française de Développement (AFD), that was financing a substantial part of the project. One of the participants at the meeting had said that Bangladesh was forgoing the opportunity to introduce the world's latest “zero emission e-buses” in its maiden BRT project, and added that the maintenance cost for e-buses is very low compared to diesel vehicles. But it seemed nothing could sway the project authorities. Read: Caretaker Govt: To be, or not to be? The features that actually make for a modern BRT system - remote monitoring, surveillance camera system, Wi-Fi connectivity, cashless fare collection - are all just more compatible with e-buses, said a young entrepreneur who had been hoping to do business with the country’s first BRT. Echoing the same, another stakeholder said if the Dhaka BRT goes for diesel-run buses, it has to set up two types of operation and maintenance systems (ONM), one for diesel-run buses, and another for electric vehicles. That too would escalate the cost substantially. Besides, the introduction of diesel-run buses would create systemic problems as well. In the BRT system, the buses usually keep their doors on the right side to facilitate passengers' easy entry and exit. But the proposed diesel-run buses will have no right side entry-exit system. Instead they will have a left side entry system which will not be compatible with the BRT system, he said. Read More: BGMEA seeks cooperation of BRT to make garment workers’ Eid journey easy The private parties which are involved in the BRT project under different capacities said the “errant move” by the Dhaka BRT authorities surprised many, including environmentalists, and transport sector experts who smell a rat in the project. Defying logic? Sharif Jamil, general secretary of the Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), an environmental advocacy group, termed the initiative for introducing diesel-run buses ‘illogical’ - given that it was all set to go electric. “Obviously a diesel-run bus will have a negative impact on the environment and its operation costs will be higher too than e-buses," he said. State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid even said recently that the government wants to promote electric vehicles, as its energy efficiency is 80 percent against diesel-run vehicles’ 20 percent, according to Jamil. Read: Despite repeated warnings, Food Minister rules out any possibility of food crisis in Bangladesh “The Power Division has also adopted a policy-guideline for EV charging stations,” he added. But then why would they be turned off the idea of e-buses for the BRT project at this late stage? There was no satisfactory answer. From the horse’s mouth For that, UNB was able to reach the managing director of the DBRTCL, Safiqul Islam. A career bureaucrat with extensive experience in the Road Transport & Highways Division (RTHD), Islam had been serving as an additional secretary at the RTHD when he was picked up to lead the state-owned DBRTCL. He defended the move to procure diesel-run buses for the project by deferring to decisions taken at the Ministry level. Read: Dhaka’s traffic chaos: Officials have no answers “This is the decision of the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges as no feasibility study for introducing e-buses has been completed yet,” he said. He then claimed that the original plans for the BRT had been drawn up with diesel buses in mind. To anyone familiar with the project’s timeline, those plans must be at least ten years old now. It doesn’t quite match an invitation for PEOIs published in July. “But we will gradually introduce e-buses once the feasibility study is complete,” said Islam. He also added at this stage that they had moved to procure diesel buses as they have no technical knowledge and experience in operating e-buses. This was nothing that could not be fixed with some weeks of training and getting used to. The BRT project is already one of the longest-delayed projects in the country’s history, plagued by numerous false starts, flip flops, and oversights. As things stand, the Hazrat Shahjalal Airport to Gazipur corridor has a completion date by the end of this year, after which it may be pressed into service in the new year i.e. 2023. The project’s cost has more than doubled over the years, from the Tk 2,040 crore estimated in 2012 to the Tk 4,268 crore allocated till today. Islam’s final words of reassurance were only slightly more specific. “Once the feasibility study is complete, the Dhaka BRT will move to procure 50 e-buses,” he said.
A probe body formed to investigate last month's horrific accident in Uttara that saw a massive girder of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project crush five members of a family to death in their car, has found the Chinese contractor responsible for the tragedy. Secretary of Road Transport and Highways Division ABM Amin Ullah Nuri revealed this at a press briefing on the probe report at the Secretariat on Sunday. The probe body found the contractor firm, China Gezhouba Group Corporation, or CGGC responsible for the accident, he said. Separately, the probe body pointed to twelve circumstantial reasons behind the accident. These are as follows: Also read: 10 people remanded over Uttara girder crash · The authorities concerned were shifting the girder in the daytime for the first time, which is among the prime reasons behind the accident. · The authorities concerned were ignoring the government holiday without taking any prior permission from the higher authorities concerned. · The crane was driven by an assistant operator or helper of the crane’s main operator. · Even the operator had no licence. · The crane was found driving on a bumpy road. · There was no digital monitor on the crane. · The workers did not take any prior approval for the work. · There was no specific traffic management. Also read: PM orders to find out those responsible for Uttara girder crash · Ineptitude of the traffic management workers. · Lack of a safety engineer. · There was no emergency plan management · Those found working that day were not approved by the contractor firm. Few days after the accident, Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming said there would be no objections on their part if punitive actions is taken against those found responsible for the tragedy in an official probe. The probe body also provides some recommendations, including to continue the project work after ensuring safety as per the agreement; take prior approval for safety related issue; should be coordinated with the engineer, consultant, police, city corporation and other concerned for road related work; shifting heavy things like girder should take place from 8pm to 6am, after ensuring proper safety measure and must ensure emergency incident management plan and keeping standby capacity cranes or wrecker, ambulance, first aid and emergency doctor in the project area. The committee suggested bearing the cost of the victims injured in the accident as per prior consensus. On August 15, five members of a family, including two children, were crushed to death after a girder of the BRT project in Uttara fell from a crane on their private car. The Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges formed the six-member probe committee to investigate the tragedy on the following day. Meanwhile, a police case has been filed in connection with the tragedy that occurred around 4.15pm when the girder of the Gazipur Expressway fell on the car from a crane while it was being moved in front of Gazipur Paradise Tower. The FIR for causing death due to negligence does not name anyone but lists the crane operator and the company responsible for the project, China Gezhouba Group Co Ltd, police said.
A six-member panel probing the Dhaka Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) girder tragedy has submitted a preliminary report to the government, UNB has learnt. On Monday, five members of a family, including two children, were crushed to death after a girder of the BRT project in Uttara fell on their private car. A newlywed couple also travelling with them, fortunately escaped death. On Monday itself, the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges formed the six-member probe committee to investigate the tragedy. Read: FIR lodged over Dhaka BRT girder tragedy Nilima Akhter, additional secretary of the Road Transport and Highways Division, has been made the head of the committee. The panel has been asked to submit a full report within the next two days. Meanwhile, a police case has been filed in connection with the tragedy that occurred around 4.15pm when the girder of the Gazipur Expressway fell on the car from a crane while it was being moved in front of Gazipur Paradise Tower. The FIR for causing death due to negligence does not name anyone but lists the crane operator and the company responsible for the project, China Gezhouba Group Co Ltd, police said. Read Fire breaks out at Old Dhaka plastic factory "The case was filed at Uttara west police station on Monday night on a complaint from Afran Mondol, the brother of two of the deceased -- Fahima and Jhorna," said Md Mohsin, the station's officer-in-charge. “The crane operator and China Gezhouba Group Co Ltd have been listed in the FIR,” said the OC. "Police will investigate if the negligence of the crane operator and others concerned led to the accident." The deceased were identified as Rubel, 50, Fahima, 40, her sister Jhorna, 28, and Jhorna's two children Jannat, 6, and Jakaria, 2, said Yeasin Gazi, inspector of Uttara west police station. Read Fire at Old Dhaka's plastic factory brought under control Rubel's son Hridoy, 26, and his wife Ria Moni, 21, escaped with serious injuries and were rushed to a local hospital. "They are currently out of danger," said the officer.
Five people of a family including two children died after a girder of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project fell on a private car in the city's Uttara area on Monday afternoon, said police. The deceased were identified as Rubel, 50, his wife Fahima, 40, her sister Jhorna, 28, and Jhorna's two children Jannat, 6, and Jakaria, 2, who got crushed inside the mangled car, said Yeasin Gazi, inspector of Uttara west police station. Also read: 6 charred bodies retrieved from Old Dhaka plastic factory: Fire Service Two other occupants of the car managed to escape with serious injuries and were rushed to a local hospital, said police. They were identified as Rubel's son Hridoy, 26, and Ria Moni, 21. It comes exactly one month after a worker was killed by a falling crane in the Gazipur part of the project, and last year six workers escaped with injuries after a part of a launching girder collapsed near them, close to Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka. Today's accident occurred around 4:15 pm when the girder of the Gazipur Expressway fell from a crane while it was being moved in front of Gazipur Paradise Tower, he added. It suggests the use of cranes of insufficient strength in the project. Also read: Rohingya leaders shot dead in Cox’s Bazar Fire fighters recovered five bodies from the accident-hit car and handed those over to police, said the inspector. A family member said Hridoy and Ria Moni got married on Saturday and were going to the latter's house in Gazipur along with five other relatives in the car this afternoon. Hridoy's father Rubel was driving the car when the girder fell on the vehicle.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Faruque Hassan has requested the Dhaka Rapid Bus Transit (BRT) authority to manage the construction works of the dedicated bus corridor between Dhaka airport to Gazipur to reduce traffic congestion on the highway and ensure easy and safe travel of garment workers during Eid-ul-Fitr holidays. He also sought support and cooperation of the government bodies, law enforcement agencies and BRT to keep the highway free from construction materials and makeshift shops and markets as such occupation narrows down the existing road and causes traffic congestion. The BGMEA chief made the call during a meeting with BRT Managing Director Safiqul Islam in Dhaka on Monday. High officials of BRT authority were also present at the meeting. READ: BGMEA wants illegal gas connections to be snapped BGMEA President Faruque Hassan urged the BRT authority to complete the Bus Rapid Transit project as quickly as possible to ease traffic congestion on the Dhaka-Gazipur highway and ensure that commuters can avail the full benefits of fast, efficient and comfortable mode of transport. He said a huge number of garment workers will travel from Gazipur and surrounding areas to their villages to enjoy their Eid holidays with their near and dear ones. "It’s very important to ensure hassle-free and safe journeys for passengers during the upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr." The BGMEA President assured the BRT authority of cooperation in raising awareness among garment workers so that they move in an orderly manner during Eid journey to keep transportation easy for all.