Metro network unlikely by 2030
The building of a 130km metro rail network in Dhaka and its adjacent areas is not likely to meet the 2030 deadline due to delays in preparations.
After the partial launch of metro rail, the authorities are planning to start physical work for Mass Rapid Transit Line (MRT) Line-1 and -5 (Northern route) by this year.
But the two projects approved in October 2019, with an estimated cost of Tk 94,000 crore, may not be completed by their deadlines in 2026 and 2028.
Feasibility studies for another section, MRT Line-5 (Southern route), were done late last year, but the authorities have yet to find a financier for the project that may cost Tk 53,000 crore.
The authorities have not even started feasibility studies for two other lines, MRT-4 and -2.
After completion of the feasibility studies, the authorities have to find a financier, prepare a project proposal, get approval, acquire land, prepare a detailed design, and float tenders to hire contractors.
ABM Amin Ullah Nuri, secretary of road transport and highways division, however, said he was hopeful finishing everything on time.
"We have achieved early commissioning of the first metro rail line. So, we are optimistic," he told The Daily Star last night.
"MRT Line-6 [Uttara-Agargaon] was a new experience. So, it took longer. Since the MRT Line-1 would be underground, its work will be comparatively smoother."
The state-owned Dhaka Mass Transit Company Ltd is in charge of implementing the plan to build the 130km metro network of six lines.
Approved in December 2012, the 20.10km line from Uttara to Motijheel was supposed to be done by June 2024.
It took six years and three months of physical work to open the 12km Uttara-Agargaon section. The Agargaon-Motijheel section is expected to be opened within this year.
The 1.16km Motijheel-Kamalapur section, which was added in 2020, is expected to open to commuters in December 2025, a year later than the original plan.
The project cost rose to Tk 33,472 crore, about 11,487 crore more than the original estimate.
According to this project's monthly progress report, the work for the country's first underground rail line is to begin in the last week of this month.
But the original plan was to begin physical work of the 31.24km line, the biggest infrastructure project in the transport sector involving Tk 52,561.43 crore, in December 2020. The delay was caused by coronavirus restrictions.
This project's 19.87km part from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport to Kamalapur will be underground. The other part, an 11.36km stretch from Notun Bazar to Purbachal, will be elevated. There will be 19 stations for the two parts.
The construction work will start with developing land for a depot at Pitalganj, Narayanganj. A Japan-Bangladesh joint venture company has been hired for building the depot.
Contracts for only one, out of 12 packages, have been signed so far.
Transport expert Prof Moazzem Hossain said, "I don't think [MRT Line-1] will be complete by 2026. It usually takes five to seven years to build an MRT line."
If the authorities want to meet the 2026 deadline, they will have only four years to do it, he added.
A document from Japan International Cooperation Agency, which will provide 70 percent of the cost in soft loans, shows the line is expected to be opened in 2028.
Even a video presented at a contract signing ceremony of the line on October 23 last year mentioned that the line would open in 2028.
The line, from Savar's Hemayetpur to Bhatara via Gabtoli, Mirpur, and Gulshan, is to be built at an estimated cost of Tk 41,239 crore.
MAN Siddique, managing director of DMTCL, on December 28 announced that physical work would start in July this year. But not even the drawing of its detailed design has been done.
The deadline for the 20km line with 14 stations is 2028.
As per its progress report, 71.14 percent work for the detailed design was done as of December 2022.
Tender for development of depot area is being evaluated while preparation for floating tender for the other packages is underway, documents show.
The physical work will start with the land development for a depot in Hemayetpur, said an official, adding that he was hopeful of meeting the 2028 deadline.
About this, Prof Moazzem said, "I will be happy if they can complete this by 2030."
A document of Jica, which will provide 70 percent of the cost in soft loans, said the line is expected to be opened in 2029.
MRT-5 (SOUTHERN ROUTE)
The 17.40km line from Gabtoli to Dasherkandi via Shyamoli, Russel Square, Karwan Bazar, Hatirjheel and Aftabnagar will have both underground and elevated sections.
It will have 15 stations and would cost an estimated Tk 53,000 crore. The deadline for the project is 2030.
Feasibility study was done in November 2022 and the authorities are now preparing a Development Project Proposal (DPP) for the project, documents show.
But no financier has been found yet.
The project faced a major setback last year after the authorities changed the way it would be financed and implemented.
It was supposed to be implemented under the Government-to-Government (G2G) PPP (Public Private Partnership) model with Japan.
But the metro authorities now want to implement it under a government initiative because they found the conditions given by Japan unacceptable.
The authorities changed the preliminary alignment of the line. The line was supposed to be 24km from Gabtoli to Chattogram Road via Mohammadpur, Nilkhet, Azimpur, Central Shaheed Minar, Gulistan, Motijheel, Kamalapur, Mugda, and Demra.
But, as per the new alignment, the line would be extended up to Narayanganj. And it would have an extended part from Gulistan to Sadarghat.
Physical work for the line was slated to start in 2024 but the finance-related changes are likely to cause more delays.
"If we can't do those [feasibility studies and other work] in two years, we will be able to do them in three… In that case, we will have to work faster to complete the work by 2030," Siddique told this correspondent in October 2022.
The authority is now searching for a financier for the feasibility study.
As per the preliminary plan, the line is supposed to be from Kamalapur to Narayanganj underground.
But metro rail authorities changed the plan as Bangladesh Railway is expanding lines from Dhaka to Narayanganj.
Its new alignment would be from Dhaka to Madanpur in Narayanganj via Signboard and the authorities are looking for funds for a feasibility study.
Prof Moazzem said the government may not build this line now. "Because, in that case, they will have to take huge loans. They also have to pay subsidies for its operation."