As Padma Bridge opens, Dhaka traffic police struggle to handle the rush

The long-awaited Padma Multipurpose Bridge has opened to the public, but the flurry of vehicles streaming in and out of Dhaka has started to put a strain on traffic officers.

Published : 26 June 2022, 09:40 AM
Updated : 26 June 2022, 09:40 AM

Traffic Inspector Md Atik was on duty near the Sheikh Hasina National Burn and Plastic Surgery Institute in Chankharpul. The road is generally busy, but the onrush of vehicles has left him struggling to catch his breath, he says while frantically waving his arms to direct the traffic.

“Do you see how many cars are entering Dhaka? All of them are private cars. This many vehicles didn't enter Dhaka before, but now they are coming across the Padma Bridge.”

The 6.15km-long Padma Bridge has connected 21 administrative districts with Dhaka by road, making travel hassle-free for people in the country's southwest. The rail link on the lower deck of the two-storey structure is likely to open next year.

Traffic is making its way into the capital from Keraniganj via the Buriganga Bridge and the Babubazar Bridge after descending from the Padma Bridge. Hundreds of vehicles are also heading the other way.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the country's longest bridge on Saturday by unveiling plaques at the two ends of the structure in Munshiganj's Mawa and Shariatpur's Zajira.

The 14 toll gates on both sides of the bridge officially opened at 6 am on Sunday to a wave of motorcycles, private cars, trucks and buses.

"Traffic has been heavy since the early morning," said Atik. "Hordes of vehicles are entering Dhaka, while packed cars are exiting the city through Fulbaria. It's been difficult to cope and my arms are already starting to feel heavy."

Both lanes of the road leading to the Bangabandhu Expressway from Chunkutia were teeming with vehicles in the morning, said Traffic Police Inspector Piyush Kumar in Keraniganj's Kadamtoli.

But there weren't any tailbacks and the pressure eased a bit after 10 am, according to him.

In Fulbaria, 60-year-old Idris Mollah is waiting with his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter to take the Tungipara Express bus home to Gopalganj.

His face lit up with a smile at the prospect of crossing the Padma Bridge. “I have suffered a lot in life. There were times when I had to spend the entirety of Eid day on the banks of the Padma. My grandchildren won't have to go through that. This brings me a lot of joy. ”

Narine Dutt was loading a motorcycle wheel and a heavy bag onto a bus. Asked where he was going, he said, "I'm going to watch a dream come true."

Md Masum, a traffic police inspector, was on duty in Fulbaria since the morning. The area had been overflowing with crowds of people, all of whom were going to see the Padma Bridge. "I haven't had a moment's respite."

Vehicles travelling from the northern districts or the Mymensingh Division to the south and southwest directly by road will have to cross Dhaka first to reach the bridge. They will not be able to bypass the capital on the return trip either.

Chattogram and Sylhet-bound traffic must go through Jatrabari in Dhaka. Experts had warned that Dhaka's road network would be under increased pressure once the bridge opened.

Until now, ferries were used to cross the Padma, which required extra time but prevented too many vehicles from entering Dhaka at the same time.

Now that the bridge has opened, transport from the southern part of Bangladesh will be able to reach Dhaka quicker and use the capital's road network to travel to other districts after they get off the structure. Similarly, vehicles from other districts will pass through Dhaka to reach the Padma Bridge.

This has raised concerns about traffic congestion at the access points to Dhaka, especially at the Babu Bazar Bridge, Jatrabari, Mayor Hanif Flyover, the road to Narayanganj from Munshiganj, and from Postogola to Narayanganj.

Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, however, played down these concerns prior to the bridge's inauguration.

"Many vehicles will enter and exit Dhaka putting pressure on the traffic system, but we've plans to combat it. And we're moving forward according to those plans."

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher