Monday, June 23, 2008

Toll paying commuters suffer as Natore-Sirajganj road rundown in five years

A truck opts for the adjoining lane to avert the jerks on the main road of Dhaka-Rajshahi Highway in Tarash union in Sirajganj district...STAR

Five years into opening, the country's first and longest 'toll road' connecting Natore and Sirajganj on Rajshahi-Dhaka Highway has become risky for thousands of commuters due to substandard construction and poor maintenance.

Pitch and carpeting on the 55-km road started to be dislocated and large craters appeared within one year of its inauguration in May 2003, locals and Roads and Highways Department (RHD) officials said, adding that some 27km of the highway is now hard for vehicles to ply.

In five years, the road authorities earned over Tk 12.70 crore as toll with around Tk 71,000 daily average collection from movement of 2000 vehicles. But the road with large potholes, craters and ditches is now causing one-hour sufferings to passengers from and to the Capital.

In the rainy seasons, the situation turns worse as rainwater remains stagnant on the holes for days together.

Drivers have to struggle to avoid large potholes. At times, they use the adjoining lanes meant for use by rickshaws and vans.

The road also causes transport owners count additional money for repairing vehicles damaged due to plying the bad-shaped road.

"Panic grips me when I cross the road. The coaches may slip any time as they often move from one side to another to avoid ditches," said Habibur Rahman, a regular commuter on the road.

It is difficult to tolerate such risks and sufferings after paying toll, said Abdur Razzak, the driver of a coach on Dhaka-Rajshahi road.

The road from Bonpara in Natore to Nalka-Hatikumrul of Sirajganj district is the first among two toll roads in the country, the other being the Ashulia road that provides a link with the western approach of Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge.

Constructed at the cost of over Tk 337 crore in four years, the road Running through the Chalan Beel reduced distance between the capital and Rajshahi by 75 kilometres.

Two local construction firms -- Mir Akhter Group and Monem Ltd and two Chinese farms -- China Road and Bridge Company (CRBC) and China Harbour constructed the 55-kilometre road, sources in RHD said.

About 27 kilometres of the road, constructed by the Chinese firms, developed cracks and potholes while about nine kilometres have become totally unfit for vehicular movement, RHD officials said.

The officials attributed substandard work done by the four firms and poor maintenance for fund shortage for dilapidated condition of the road.

Two tenders have been floated for repairing the 27km road, they said, earlier occasional repair work failed to make any lasting solution of the problem.

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