Dhaka Metro Rail now set to cost 50% more
With the partial launch of the country's first ever metro rail only five months away, the project cost is set to rise by more than half, and the deadline is also going to be extended by a year and half.
The project -- formally known as Mass Rapid Transit Line-6 or MRT Line-6 -- is to go through a major revision mainly due to changes in the design of metro stations and expansion of the elevated rail line up to Kamalapur from Motijheel.
According to the revision proposal that the Road Transport and Highways Division sent to the Planning Commission, the project cost will rise by 52.25 percent or Tk 11,487 crore to Tk 33,472 crore. The original cost was Tk 21, 985 crore.
The deadline for completion of the MRT Line-6 -- one of the eight fast-track government projects -- will be December 2025 instead of June 2024.
The proposal is likely to be placed at the next meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) tomorrow, said MAN Siddique, managing director of Dhaka Mass Transit Company Ltd.
If the proposal is approved, the MRT Line-6 will be the seventh fast-track project to have gone through revision at least once. Only the Rooppur nuclear power plant project has not gone through any revision.
Uncertainty over funding; complexity over design, planning and land acquisition; lack of capability and accountability of implementing agencies; and the Covid pandemic are to blame for the time and cost overruns.
The development comes at a time when deadline extension and cost escalation of development projects have become a major concern with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressing discontent over it on several occasions.
Approved in December 2012, the project, funded with soft loans from Japan, didn't take off until 2016.
Overall progress of the project was 81.19 percent till June this year, while that of the Uttara-Agargaon section, scheduled to be opened to the public on December 16 this year, is 93.76 percent.
Once completed, the metro rail will be able to carry 60,000 people per hour, bringing down the commute time between Uttara and Motijheel to around 40 minutes from the existing two hours.
It will save around Tk 3,500 crore annually in terms of travel time and vehicle operation costs, according to the metro rail authorities.
The government is implementing a time-bound action plan to build a 130km metro rail network with six lines in the capital and adjacent areas by 2030 to reduce traffic congestion and environmental pollution.
REASONS FOR REVISION
MAN Siddique said a large portion of the additional Tk 11,487 crore has been sought for acquiring land around the metro stations.
According to DMTCL officials, if the existing design is followed, commuters may face difficulties in getting in and out of the stations due to space constraints.
Taking this into account, the authorities have decided to build spacious exits and entry points as well as footpaths outside the stations, they said.
The DMTCL will have to buy land for footpaths, and most of the land around the stations is private property, they added.
As per the PM's directive, the authorities are going to extend the metro rail line up to Kamalapur from Motijheel, and preparatory works for the extension are going on.
The length of the line will be 21.26 kilometres instead of the original 20.10 km.
As per the original plan, a walkway was supposed to connect Kamalapur -- the country's biggest railway station -- to Motijheel, Dhaka's commercial hub.
According to the proposal, a full-fledged station will be built at Kamalapur for the commuters' convenience, taking the total number of stops to 17.
MAN Siddique pointed out that the extension of the line is another major reason behind the revision.
Besides, the higher exchange rate of the dollar and the increase in the value-added tax and customs duty are among other reasons for the cost escalation, he added.