Authorities are unlikely to meet the deadline for early commissioning of country's first ever metro rail in December this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We had taken an initiative for early commissioning of [metro rail]. But it now depends on Covid-19 situation. The government may set a [fresh] deadline once the situation improves," MAN Siddique, managing director of Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited, said yesterday.
He was speaking at a monthly press briefing online to disclose progress and different perspectives of the long-running project.
At least 48 people involved with metro rail project got infected with Covid-19 in the last seven days, taking the total number to 518, he said.
However, work of the fast track project is going on in full-swing in two shifts -- day and night, he said.
The overall progress of the project is at 61.49 percent till March this year.
The first phase -- from Uttara to Agargaon -- saw 83.52 percent progress, second phase -- from Agargaon to Motijheel -- witnessed 57.68 percent progress, he said.
The other part which is regarding installation of rail tracks and other equipment and procuring coaches saw 52.22 percent progress till this March, he added.
Total 7 kilometres out of the 20.1km line have already been installed and work of all 16 stations are going on, he added.
First set of metro trains have reached Mongla Port from Japan on March 31 and is expected to reach Diabari depot by April 23, he added.
Mass Rapid Transit Line-6, also known as MRT-6 is being implemented to build the 20.1km elevated metro rail from Uttara third phase to Motijheel at the cost of Tk 22,000 crore.
Once the coach arrived, the authority will carry out an integrated test and then go for test run, which may take at least six months, DMTCL sources said.
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, 2021, when the country would be celebrating the golden jubilee of its independence.
Visiting the project site in February this year, Planning Minister MA Mannan said the first phase -- from Uttara to Agargaon -- of metro rail is likely to be operational in December this year.
UNLIKELY TO MEET DEADLINE
When a correspondent asked whether they would be able to meet the deadline, MAN Siddique did not give any direct answer.
He said they have continued their works even during the pandemic. "We can't fix deadline unilaterally. Our minister, while talking to you journalists has already said it may take until June next year to complete the project," MAN Siddique said.
"Whether we will be able to complete by June [next year] depends on global Covid situation," he added.
While signing Annual Performance Agreement (APA) with Road Transport and Highway Division in June last year, DMTCL set target to complete 75 percent of overall work within this fiscal year.
But it recorded 15.36 percent progress in first nine months and has to complete 13.51 percent work in next three months to achieve the fiscal target, shows DMTCL documents.
Asked whether they will be able to meet the target, MAN Siddique said they are hopeful about achieving it, subject to the Covid situation.
He said till yesterday around 7000 people, including around 1000 foreigners, are working for the projects and almost all the foreigners are now in Bangladesh and they are willing to continue the work following proper health safety guidelines.
They are considering adding more beds in their two field hospitals due the fresh surge of Covid cases, he added.
Asked about the progress in providing training to the manpower to be required for metro rail operations, MAN Siddique said most of the training to be provided at national level has been completed.
However, some practical training has to be arranged, which is not possible for now due to the pandemic, he said.
DMTCL has already talked with the Delhi Metro Rail authority to provide training on several matters but that also cannot be done at the moment, because of the pandemic.