The Padma Bridge witnessed huge pressure of traffic and a crowd of onlookers Sunday, the very first day it opened for vehicular movement, creating tailbacks on both sides of the long-awaited bridge.
The sheer volume of vehicles that showed up to cross the bridge from either side led to an excruciating wait at the toll plazas, to pay the toll and get cleared to go. This primarily was the source of the tailbacks.
Hundreds of vehicles including buses, trucks, private cars, motorbikes, and ambulances were seen waiting in front of the two toll plazas at Mawa point and Nowdoba point of Shariatpur. They are not maintaining queues and trying to cross each other haphazardly in front of the toll plazas.
Besides, the process of collecting tolls is also very slow. Army personnel are finding it difficult to maintain discipline due to the unruly behaviour of the drivers. There are also hundreds of motorbikes on both ends of the bridge who seem to be there only for sightseeing.
Vehicles remained stuck for over 2kms from Mawa point toll plaza and over 1.5 Km from Nowdoba point at around 8 pm.
According to the witnesses, the traffic pressure kept increasing from the afternoon.
Mostak Ahmed, a private service holder from Dhaka who came to visit the bridge in his car, told UNB that it took him around an hour to cross the Mawa point toll plaza due to traffic. "Now I'm worried about returning as there is another long tailback at the Nowdoba point," he said.
As it opened today, many people were coming to simply see the spectacular bridge alongside the passengers from the 21 southwest districts. Many were seen parking their transports on the bridge and walking or clicking photos defying the rules.
Yet it also showed the potential for the bridge to be a gamechanger. The volume of traffic meant revenue generation was off to a flying start, and the fact that people are taking the bridge already speaks to its functional necessity.
The government earned Tk 82.19 lakh in revenue by collecting tolls from vehicles crossing the Padma Bridge from 6 am to 2 pm on Sunday, as the long-awaited bridge became officially operational for the first time.
"Around 15,200 vehicles crossed the bridge during the same period," Bangladesh Bridges Authority (BBA) Superintendent Engineer Abul Hossain told UNB.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina formally inaugurated the bridge on Saturday and it was opened to traffic on Sunday morning.
The government expects that Padma Bridge's construction cost of Tk 30,000 crore will be recovered in the next 35 years, according to the BBA.
Meanwhile, the government announced that stopping vehicles, walking and taking pictures on the Padma Bridge are completely prohibited and punishable offenses.
The cabinet urged the public to be vigilant in complying with the ban today.
The government also requested all to pay tolls while crossing the bridge.
The government on May 17 finalised the toll rate for different types of vehicles for crossing the Padma Multipurpose Bridge. The Bridges Division under the Road Transport and Bridges Ministry issued a gazette notification in this regard.
According to the government decision, Tk 100 toll has been fixed for motorbike, Tk 750 for private car and jeep, Tk 1200 from pick-up, Tk 1300 for microbus, Tk 1400 for small bus (with 31 seats), Tk 2000 for middle bus (with 32 seats), Tk 2400 for big size bus, Tk 1600 for small truck (5 tonnes), Tk 2100 for middle size truck (over 5 tonnes to 8 tonnes), Tk 2800 for middle size truck (over 8 tonnes to 11 tonnes), Tk 5500 for big truck (up to 3 excel) Tk 6000 for trailer truck (4 excel) and Tk 6,000 plus for trailer (over 4 excel).
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