The country's transport sector is witnessing hefty investments as entrepreneurs rush to seize the communication opportunities presented by the Padma Bridge.
According to sector insiders, numerous transport companies are set to introduce luxury bus services on the routes connecting the capital with the southwestern districts via the bridge.
As of now, passengers and vehicles have to cross the mighty Padma River by ferries, launches or boats, which according to many is nothing but a painful experience, they said, noting that the bridge opens up a great opportunity for transport owners and commuters.
The much-anticipated 6.15km bridge is scheduled to be inaugurated by the prime minister on 25 June.
Green Line Paribahan, one of the country's large luxury bus services, is importing 20 luxury double-decker buses at a cost of over Tk30 crore to expand its business.
Md Abdus Sattar, general manager of Green Line Paribahan, said, "The Padma Bridge has created new possibilities for the transport business. All of our buses on the southwestern routes now can make no more than one trip a day due to delays in ferry crossing. But the bridge will let us conduct two trips per day easily."
"During the Covid-19 pandemic, we suspended our services on the Dhaka-Barishal route, which we are planning to resume. Our buses on the Dhaka-Khulna and Dhaka-Benapole routes used to run through the Paturia ferry terminal. They will pass through the Padma Bridge after 26 June," he said.
"Some of our routes will also be extended as the buses that used to go to Barishal will now go to Kuakata. Buses for Khulna will now go as far as Satkhira," the Green Line official said.
"We are currently operating 20 buses in some southern districts but the number of buses will go up to 50 after the opening of the Padma Bridge," he added.
Abdus Sattar added that the only reason his company had not introduced luxury buses on the southern routes had to do with problems regarding the ferry.
Hanif Enterprise, another big transport company, is also making new investments centering on the Padma Bridge.
Mosharraf Hossain, general manager of Hanif Enterprise, said, "We currently run about 60 buses in 21 southern districts. We have luxury buses on some of these routes. Recently, we added 20 buses, four of which cost around Tk3 crore, to our squad as a competitive move vis-a-vis other companies."
Md Faruk Talukder, managing director of Sohag Paribahan, said, "We run 40 buses on the Jessore, Benapole, Khulna and Satkhira routes. At present, we have no plans to expand the business."
"However, we will observe the situation after the opening of the Padma Bridge. If it seems positive then the number of buses will be increased," he said, adding the Padma Bridge will save the company a lot of money.
Khandaker Enayet Ullah, secretary-general of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners' Association, said, "The Padma Bridge will improve road connectivity in the entire country. Transport companies have already made new investments and will make more investments in the future."
Transport companies in Shariatpur gearing up for big business
Businessmen in Shariatpur, the district adjacent to the Padma River, are also making new investments in the transport sector.
According to sources, so far they have already invested at least Tk200 crore for bus services from Shariatpur to Dhaka and Narayanganj. The investment means that at least 250 new luxury buses will be introduced on these routes, with each bus costing between Tk80 lakh and Tk1 crore.
Manufacture of these buses is going on in full swing in different factories in Shariatpur, Dhaka and Savar as owners are keen to start their business on the day of the Padma Bridge inauguration.
Shariatpur Super Service Private Ltd is manufacturing 40 new buses. Besides, Padma Travels, Shariatpur Paribahan and Glory Paribahan are also making new buses.
These buses will run from different upazilas of Shariatpur to Dhaka and Narayanganj.
Anwar Hossain Talukder, owner of Fame Private Limited, said, "The transport business in Shariatpur had completely collapsed. Now, the Padma Bridge has given new hope to the owners. We are making new buses in different factories so that the people of Shariatpur can go to Dhaka comfortably."
Alamgir Hossain Bhuiyan, a member of Shariatpur Bus Owners' Association, said, "The transport business in Shariatpur did not flourish as there was no direct bus service with Dhaka. There was no luxury bus for the passengers here."
"We used to run small buses which were not comfortable for passengers. But those days are over now," he added.
Faruk Ahmed Talukder, president of Shariatpur Bus Owners' Association, said, "At least 200 air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned buses are being prepared for this route with an investment of Tk300 crore."