Bangladesh Railway and the metro rail authorities have agreed to a new plan which requires shifting of Kamalapur Station Plaza to a nearby location to make space for extending the MRT-6 line up to Kamalapur from Motijheel.
The existing plaza will be demolished and a similar one will be built north of it as per the new plan that will turn the station into a true transport hub, Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan told The Daily Star after a meeting between the two sides yesterday.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will make the final decision in this regard as the existing plaza, an iconic structure, has to be demolished to implement the new plan, he mentioned.
"The metro rail authorities [Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited] agreed to the new plan proposed by Kajima Corporation [a Japanese company]. We also accepted the plan, subject to the prime minister's approval," he said.
Seeking anonymity, a railway official, who attended the meeting, said the station plaza has to be shifted 130 metres north of its current location to implement the new plan.
"If the existing plan is implemented, the station will be completely shadowed by the MRT-6 [Mass Rapid Transit] structure. There is no option but to shift the station because even if the existing plan is modified, the station will be partially shadowed by the MRT-6 structure," the official pointed out.
Officials of Kajima Corporation, which is leading the Kamalapur Multimodal Transport Hub (MmTH) Sub Working Group, placed the new plan at yesterday's meeting at Rail Bhaban.
The BR and the DMTCL, the implementing authority of the country's first metro rail, have been in a dispute over extension of the MRT-6 line from Motijheel to Kamalapur.
According to the BR, the existing design for MRT-6 extension will frustrate its plan to turn the Kamalapur station into a MmTH.
Apart from the railways minister, Salman F Rahman, private industry and investment adviser to the PM; Salim Reza, secretary at the railways ministry; Md Shamsuzzman, director general of the BR; and MAN Siddique, managing director of the DMTCL, attended the meeting.
DISPUTE OVER EXISTING PLAN
The latest development comes two weeks after the Sub Working Group formed by the Japanese government provided Bangladesh with an alternative plan for extending the MRT-6 line up to Kamalapur.
The group said the existing design would seriously hamper the prospect of turning the country's premier railway station into a true transport hub.
It sent a letter to the railways secretary in the first week of November, giving details of its alternative plan, ministry sources said.
Besides, the Japanese ministry of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism wrote to the Public Private Partnership Authority of Bangladesh, saying the alternative plan of the sub-working group would bring down costs, compared to that under the existing plan.
The Kamalapur hub is going to be established under public-private partnership model with government-to-government initiative between Bangladesh and Japan.
The MRT-6 line was initially designed as an elevated line from Uttara to Motijheel. Later, a skywalk was planned to connect the line with Kamalapur Railway Station.
Last year, the DMTCL planned to stretch the MRT-6 line directly to the railway station following the PM's directive.
Bangladesh Railway opposed the proposal and cited its plan for Kamalapur MmTH.
Railway officials said they were not against the extension of MRT-6 line up to Kamalapur, but the DMTCL's current design would upset their MmTH plan. They had asked the DMTCL to modify its blueprint.
The DMTCL sought help of the Prime Minister's Office in resolving the issue. The DMTCL plan was given the go-ahead at a meeting with PM's Principal Secretary Ahmad Kaikaus in the chair on September 3.
The meeting also directed the railways ministry to take immediate steps to allow setting up of MRT-6 station and a scissors crossing at Kamalapur Railway Station.
The railways minister said that as per the existing plan, the railway station will be shadowed by the elevated structure of MRT-6 and the loop line that allows trains to change direction.
"We had reservations about the plan. Kajima also expressed its reservations."
As per the new plan, the loop line (scissors crossing for trains to change direction) would not go towards the station, rather it would go in a different direction.
"We have taken the decision at today's meeting. If the prime minister agrees to the plan, we will move forward with it.
"Once the design-related problem is solved, we will sign a MoU [memorandum of understanding] with Kajima for establishing the hub," the minister mentioned.
He further said they have to shift the Inland Container Depot from Kamalapur to Dirasram in Gazipur, and a development project proposal has already been prepared to that effect.
Despite repeated attempts, MAN Siddique, MD of the DMTCL, could not be reached for comments over his mobile phone yesterday evening.