Realising their imminent failure to meet the deadline for early commissioning, the authorities are planning to launch the Uttara-Agargaon metro rail service by December next year.
Until recently, the plan was to launch the country's first metro rail service in December this year. But physical work was delayed by the pandemic.
"It is of note that activities are underway through DMTCL [Dhaka Mass Transit Company Ltd] to start passenger transport in the Uttara-Agargaon section of MRT [Mass Rapid Transit] Line-6 by December 2022," Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal told parliament in his budget speech on Thursday.
DMTCL, the implementing agency of the fast-track project, said the government, not the DMTCL, would fix the date to launch metro rail services.
"We believe that it's possible to achieve what the [finance] minister said [in his budget speech] unless the pandemic causes severe deterioration of the situation. We are trying our best," MAN Siddique, managing director at DMTCL, told The Daily Star yesterday.
MRT Line-6, the country's first metro rail system, is being built between the capital's Uttara and Motijheel at a cost of Tk 22,000 crore. Uttara to Agargaon is its first phase.
Once complete, the metro rail -- with 16 stations -- will be able to carry 60,000 people an hour, reducing travel time between Uttara and Motijheel to around 40 minutes. It now takes about two hours to travel the distance on a regular day.
The original implementation period of the project was 2012-2024. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina later directed that metro services from Uttara to Agargaon be made operational by 2019, and from Agargaon to Motijheel by 2020.
Failing to meet the deadline, the authorities in May 2019 said the project would be launched on December 16 this year when the country would be celebrating the golden jubilee of its independence.
But, physical work remained suspended for over two months last year due to coronavirus restrictions. The project authorities are still struggling to pick up the pace amid the second wave of the pandemic.
Despite these, two metro trains have reached Dhaka. At a programme on May 11, when first set of metro train rolled on the tracks on a test run, Road Transport and Highway Division Secretary Nazrul Islam said that they would fail to meet the December 2021 deadline.
After the programme, MAN Siddque had told this correspondent that the DMTCL began the performance test and would continue it inside the depot and later on the tracks.
Citing examples from different countries, he said it takes from six months to a year, if not longer in some cases, to do the tests. After successfully completing the tests, the DMTCL would hold trial runs for up to 10 weeks before formally launching the service, he said.
"Even in this situation, we are hopeful about starting installation of the rail tracks on the second phase, between Agargaon and Motijheel, from next month," he said.
The overall progress of the project was 64.91 percent in May. The first phase saw 85.74 percent progress and the second phase 62.52 percent. The installation of tracks and other equipment and procurement of cars saw 56.04 percent progress, according to the project's monthly progress report.
As per the time-bound action plan, the government would build a 128.74km metro rail network comprising six elevated and underground lines in Dhaka and its adjacent areas within 2030.