The design of piers for the Dhaka Elevated Expressway (DEE), a public-private partnership (PPP) project, has been changed halfway through the first phase work of the project, sources said.
They said the Thai concessionaire of the PPP project changed the pier design for the remaining two segments from Banani to Kutubkhali, giving in to the demand of the Bangladesh Railway (BR).
With this, experts said, the expressway project continued to face changes in the design while trying to solve various alignment-related problems on a piece-meal basis.
DEE alignment over the railway corridor was selected to avert the troubles of land acquisition though BR's land in many places is narrow.
The Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA), the executing agency of the Tk 87.03 billion project, initiated the DEE project in 2009 without any feasibility study and completed the tender process before even finalisation of the PPP policy and PPP law. It, however, carried a feasibility study lately without following proper procedure.
The BBA signed the concessionaire agreement rather hastily with the Thai company named Italian-Thai Development Public Company in January 2011 but revised it in December 2013 creating disruption to the project's design for the first time. Two important ramps of the project at Mohakhali and Farmgate were dropped from the original plan. However, there will be two other ramps at those places.
Sources said as per the latest change in design, the piers of the 27-kilometre elevated part of the route from Banani will be constructed by following the portal frame shape to keep space for constructing two more railway tracks under the expressway. The first tranche work on the DEE runs between the Airport Station and Banani with the piers designed mostly Y-shaped.
The most part of the DEE, planned to link the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) with Dhaka-Chattogram highway at Kutubkhali point, will be built along railway track between Dhaka Cantonment and Kamalapur Railway Station.
Sources said the BR expressed reservation about the Y-shaped piers to BBA as it would block the railway's future expansion plan to launch high speed train, double decker trains, etc. Existing two tracks have already been saturated for operating more than 72 trains per day from the central station at Kamalapur.
"We placed the demand for the sake of safety," said a BR official involved in the design-related negotiation.
Sources said tripartite meetings held during the last couple of months, design experts of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) and the Thai concessionaire agreed to leave a space of 15 to 16 feet vertically with a width of 65 feet.
The project manager of the Italian-Thai, however, said, the pier sizes from the second part of the corridor were expanded keeping the design same. "There is in fact no change in the design. We have expanded the design," he told the FE.
Bhaskon Khannabha, who is in-charge of the company here, said they accepted the change as part of the risk of the project.
"We are trying to overcome the challenges bit by bit," he told the FE at the site office of the DEE project.
The increase in cost of the construction with the design changes was, however, not disclosed by any of the PPP parties. The Thai official expect good return due to heavy city traffic.
According to the concessionaire agreement, a car using the entire corridor will pay Tk 125 and the interchange rate is Tk 100. The fare for bus will be Tk 250 and truck between Tk 500 and Tk 625. The interchange rates for bus and truck are Tk 200 and Tk 400-500.
The Thai company could not start construction until mid-2016 due to its inability to manage required US $ 850 million fund. The BBA also failed to hand over 76 acres of land including seven acres private land to the concessionaire in the first segment in time.
According to sources, the Thai company already spent $ 100 million from its own equity fund of $ 250 million. The government's share in the DEE project in the form of vulnerable gap funding is more than $ 300 million.
The Italian-Thai started the first tranche work in 2016 and could achieve 25 per cent progress in the work. The progress in the overall work was 10 per cent. The second segment work runs up to Maghbazar-Hatirjheel and the last up to Kutubkhali.
Commencement of the project's 25-year concessional period was, however, announced on April 1 last. This means the company spent six months of its three years and a half of construction period. The construction period is part of the company's enjoyment of 25-year ownership of the expressway.
Sources said challenges of the DEE project are yet to be overcome. The authorities will have to overcome challenges arising from the mass rapid transit lines, the Maghbazar flyover and the Mayor Hanif Flyover before they proceed with the work on the second and third trenches.
The government's share in the project is also to increase as more private land is required to be acquired. The BBA has already spent Tk 27 billion out of Tk 68.69 billion set aside under a separate project for purposes including land acquisition and resettlement for the expressway.
The BBA took several years to hand over 76 acres of land for the first tranche. Though the second and third tranches will use mostly BR's land on the profit-sharing basis, the BBA will also have to acquire 17 acres of land including four acres of private land at Tejgaon and Maghbazar for the ramps.
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