The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation has launched two new speedboat routes near the capital of Dhaka.
State Minister of Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury officially opened the routes at the Tongi River Port on Saturday afternoon.
Five speedboats are currently servicing the route on a test basis for the moment, according to Mohammad Rafiqul Islam, director of the BIWTC Department of River Safety and Traffic Management.
The two new routes are Tongi-Kadda and Tongi-Ulukhola.
Speedboat service will be available from dawn to dusk. The fare from Tongi to Kadda has been set at Tk 150, while the fare from Tongi to Ulukhola is Tk 120.
Eventually, routes will also be opened from Kadda to Gabtoli and from Gabtoli to the Sadarghat, Rafiqul said.
Private company Infinity Maritime is operating the boats on the route, he said.
The demand for speedboats at the Mawa port has dropped since the opening of the Padma Bridge. On the other hand, the heavy traffic congestion in Dhaka means there is scope to expand uninterrupted river transport in the city. The new routes were opened in an attempt to capitalise on this potential, Rafiqul said.
At 11 am, State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury and State Minister for Youth and Sports Md Zahid Ahsan Rasel unveiled the BIWTA Eco-Park and then launched the speedboat service at Tongi River Port in the afternoon, said BIWTA spokesman Mobarak Hossain Mazumder.
In 2000, the government launched an initiative to open circular routes for river vessels around the capital.
The initiative would allow Dhaka residents to travel from one end of Dhaka to the other with ease. However, water bus and launch services on circular routes launched in 2004, 2010, 2013 and 2014 -- all closed after a short period of time.