Dhaka Metro Rail: Rollout likely this year
Japan expects Bangladesh's first metro rail service to be operational in the capital by this year despite setbacks caused by the pandemic.
"I am delighted to share with you that Dhaka MRT Line 6 is expected to start operation within this year," Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh ITO Naoki said in a new year message yesterday.
Japan is funding the Dhaka MRT Line 6, which costs $2.8 billion. About 60,000 people will be able to commute per hour using the 20.1-km route. It will reduce travel time from Uttara to Motijheel from at least two hours to less than an hour.
Japan also funds other mega projects including the Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit, Third Terminal of Dhaka Airport and Matarbari Deep Sea Port.
MAN Siddique, managing director of Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DMTCL), the implementing agency of the project, said the MRT-6 progressed 55.19 percent as of December last year.
The first phase, between Uttara and Agarigaon, progressed 78.38 percent while the second phase, between Agargon and Motijheel, progressed 9.47 percent, he told reporters at his office yesterday.
Viaducts in 11.30 km of the 11.73-km first phase have been constructed and the rest would be done by this month, he said.
He added that it would be possible to open the metro rail to the public by December unless the pandemic took a turn for the worse.
On Sunday, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader told reporters that the project is likely to be complete by June next year.
When Siddique was asked whether they were planning to open the entire route at once or partially open it in the beginning, he said they were aiming to open the entire route.
"However, it will be possible to open the Uttara-Agargaon section, because we have a crossover [apparatus needed to change the direction] in Agargaon," he said.
To another question, he said his team was supposed to visit Japan this month to inspect the five pairs of trains manufactured there, but the plan had to be postponed because of travel restrictions imposed by Japan until January 31.
In case Japan extends the restrictions, the company might consider hiring a third party to do the inspection.
Initially, the implementation period of the project was 2012-2024.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina later directed that the lines from Uttara to Agargaon be made operational by 2019, and from Agargaon to Motijheel by 2020.
Failing to achieve the target, the authorities in May 2019 announced that "early commissioning" of the project would be made on December 16, 2021, when the country would celebrate the golden jubilee of its independence.
NEW YEAR MESSAGE
Stating that 2020 was an unusual year for the global health and economy, ITO Naoki said despite the pandemic, bilateral relations between Japan and Bangladesh grew stronger. Japan provided Bangladesh with support to fight the pandemic.
The two countries also signed a loan package worth over $3.2 billion in August last year, while the mega projects are making significant progress without considerable delay.
Japan is proud to make contributions to the future development of Bangladesh and expects that 2021 will bring new opportunities of partnership beyond the difficulties caused by the pandemic, Naoki said.