Following a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, the cabinet secretary said the date of the bridge’s inauguration will be set by the prime minister in the next few days.
“The honourable prime minister will herself give details on our discussion regarding the Padma bridge within the next five to six days,” Khandker Anwarul Islam said. “She said the Padma Bridge will be inaugurated in June. We are ready.”
“We hope the bridge will be ready by the last week of the month,” the cabinet secretary said.
A few days ago, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said the Padma bridge was 98 percent complete and would be inaugurated in June.
Asked what the name of the Padma bridge would be, the cabinet secretary said:
“The prime minister said it will just be named Padma Bridge. She may clarify the matter in the next three to four days.”
Awami League activists and leaders have called for the bridge, which connects Dhaka directly to Bangladesh’s southern districts, to be named the ‘Sheikh Hasina Bridge’.
Sheikh Hasina launched the construction of the 6,000-km long bridge across the Padma River at a cost of Tk 300 billion in 2015. Bangladesh is funding the massive infrastructure project from its own coffers.
The utmost quality has been ensured in the bridge’s construction, Khandaker Anwarul said.
“Whenever bridges are constructed, the standard tolls are set at one-and-a-half times the ferry fare,” he said in response to a question about the criticism of the high Padma bridge toll. “The tolls for the bridge were set accordingly.”
“Bangabandhu Bridge is nearly 5 km in length and this one is 9.86 km (including the link roads), so nearly double. The ferry situation is different as well. When Bangabandhu Bridge tolls were set, they were done according to the 1995-96 ferry fare. They have been raised twice since then. The Padma bridge toll has been set according to the current ferry fare.”
“The Padma bridge authority will return the money to the government at a 1 percent interest rate. So, the bridge authority has to make money from the structure. Similar structures across the world have a similar system in place. You can’t make use of such things for free.”
A feasibility study for the bridge indicated it would recoup its costs in 24 to 25 years, the cabinet secretary said.
“But now it seems we may be able to make back the money in 16-17 years. The study did not take the activity on the other bank into consideration. The good business at Mongla Port, Payra Port and the extent of industrialisation in the area was not considered in the study.”
“Padma bridge was expected to raise GDP growth by 1.3 percent, but now it seems it will near 2 percent in the next five years.”