Government plans 258km underground rail
The government has plans to build an underground railway network with 258 kilometres of tracks in Dhaka and ease congestion on the roads.
There will be 11 subway routes in the city and its outskirts, according to the draft of a feasibility study by Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA).
The 50-year plan will be implemented in three phases. Four routes of a combined length of 102km will be constructed in the first phase. In the second and third phases, 85km and 71km lines will be constructed.
There will be a 29.35km route called "O" from Jhilmil Project area in Keraniganj to Tongi. It will be the first to be implemented at an approximate cost of $8 billion, officials said.
BBA officials and consultants revealed the information yesterday at a seminar at a hotel on the feasibility study and preliminary design for construction of the Dhaka Subway.
Several experts, including a few present at the seminar, questioned the feasibility of the mega project in Dhaka.
Building a subway network has long been in discussion, but it was not mentioned in the revised strategic transport plan for Dhaka, approved in 2015, they said.
Besides, the cost of the subway project would be more than the undergoing MRT projects, according to the document.
The cost of MRT-1, which has a 19.87km underground section and an 11.36km elevated section, is Tk 52,561.43crore. But the proposed cost of the 30km subway route is around Tk 68,000 crore.
Addressing the event, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said there should be proper coordination among different development projects to avoid overlap.
THE SUBWAY PLAN
Instructed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, BBA started the feasibility study in September 2018.
Led by Spanish firm TYPSA, a consortium was originally assigned for the feasibility study and preliminary design of the 90km subway.
After the project was revised later, they carried out a feasibility study for a 238km subway network and made a preliminary design for the length of 90km at the cost of Tk 321 crore under a 35-month project.
In the draft feasibility study submitted on March 15, they proposed a 258km subway network consisting of 11 routes.
The government is developing a 128.74km elevated and underground metro rail network, comprising six metro rail lines, in the city and adjacent area. The aim is to complete the project by 2030.
In yesterday's presentation, the consultants said the MRT network should be complimented with a subway system for better coverage and connectivity.
As per the plan, the subway tunnel would be 30 metres below the surface. The tunnel boring machine and the stations would be developed with what documents said is a cut and cover method.
Once the subway is developed, half of the city's 80 lakh working people will use it, keeping roads free of congestion, Obaidul Quader said.
The 29.35km route, which is supposed to be implemented first, would be from Jhilmil-Teghoria Bazar-Sadarghat-Gulisthan-Kakrail-BG Press- Rajanigandha market-Kalshi-Uttara Sector-17- Uttara Sector 14-Machimpur and Tongi.
BBA Chief Engineer Kazi Md Ferdous, also the project director, said the approximate cost of the route is $8 billion. The exact cost will be known after a detailed design is formed.
The three other routes of the first phase are a 20.18km route from Gabtoli to Belabo, 19.31km from Keraniganj to Sonapur, and 34.98km from Jahangirnagar Uttara Sector-13 to Narayanganj via Bashundhara South and Fatulla Station.
BBA Executive Director Belayet Hossain, also the Bridge Division Secretary, said 65 percent of the feasibility study has been done and the final report might be available by the next October.
A letter has been written to the Economic Relations Division to manage funds, he said, adding that many organisations have expressed interest in investing in the project.
Speaking at the programme, Abdul Baquee Miah, additional project director (civil) of MRT Line-6, said the proposed subway routes will go in parallel to MRT lines in many areas.
"Have they studied how they will manage it?" he asked, adding that the consultants did not say anything about how they will find the land.
He said the project would need a 200 metre by 50 metre land for a station using the open cut method. "How would they do this amid so many tall buildings?"
Three MRT lines will connect Gabtoli, he said, asking whether there is space for a subway line. Besides, MRT-2 is expected to reach Sadarghat, but the proposed subway would also have stations there. "Is there enough land there for these?"
The MRT project would not make profits from selling tickets only. On the other hand, the cost of the subway would be much higher than the MRT, he said. "How will it be feasible?"
Akter Mahmud, president of Bangladesh Institute of Planners, said a prospective plan of 2041 clearly stated about political, economic and administrative decentralisation of Dhaka city.
But, many mega projects are being implemented in Dhaka city, he added.
When a reporter said that the building of subway network has long been in discussion, but the option was not included in revised strategic transport plan for Dhaka approved in 2015, reportedly because it is not feasible for an unplanned city like Dhaka, Kazi Md Ferdous said they would build the subway to organise the disorganised city.
Belayet Hossain said his office sent the proposal to Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority to incorporate the subway in the RSTP.
Spanish Ambassador to Bangladesh Francisco de Asis Benitez Salas among others spoke at the programme.