Late rush for metro rail
With only three months left of its tenure, the government plans to lay the foundation stone of the long-awaited metro rail project in the capital, pending key project preparations.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will lay the plaque of the project on October 31 upon receiving the go-ahead of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) on the appointment of a consultant, Communications Minister Obaidul Quader said yesterday.
Stretching from Uttara to Bangladesh Bank at Motijheel, the 20km metro rail is expected to carry 60,000 commuters every hour.
Acquiring land for the project depot has remained uncertain as its site was relocated from Pallabi to Uttara third phase in the face of objections from the army authorities.
The depot site was chosen at Pallabi near Mirpur cantonment on the basis of a detailed study. Relocation of the depot required acquisition of 23 hectares of land.
Bangladesh Bridges Authority (BBA), the implementing agency of the project, requested Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) to acquire the required land. But Rajuk instead handed over nearly a 5-hectare land, earmarked for a bus depot, for the metro rail project depot.
“We are not entitled to acquire land for any other organisation. We can do so for our own projects only,” said Sheikh Abdul Mannan, a member of the Rajuk board.
The deputy commissioner of Dhaka has the mandate to acquire land for any government organisation, he added.
It will take up to the end of 2015 to finish the ongoing detailed design of the project, said Md Shamsul Hoque, a member of project's technical committee.
The designing job might need more time beyond 2015, he added.
Besides, repeated changes to the finalised route of the metro rail not only wasted one and a half years time, but also increased the project cost by $1 billion, putting the figure close to $3 billion, mentioned Shamsul.
Completion of the 11-km first phase of the project is not possible before 2019. Moreover, relocation of utility lines from the project route is a mammoth job.
Shamsul thought that laying the project's foundation stone against such a backdrop would hardly mean anything as construction work would take up to six years after completion of the detailed design.
Earlier, the Bangladesh Air Force objected to the Bijoy Sarani section of the route on the plea that the 19-metre high metro rail, officially known as Mass Rapid Transit, would hinder air operations at Tejgaon airfield.
Official sources said the 11-member Dhaka Mass Transport Company Limited, responsible for execution and operation of the metro rail project, is dominated by non-technical bureaucrats.
There are four bureaucrats, one transport expert, one chartered accountant and two lawyers in the company.
“It remains a serious question as to how such a bureaucratic body will be able to carry out such a huge technical job,” said a high official at BBA requesting anonymity.
Jica, the lone foreign financier of the scheme, had recommended that all eleven members of the company be engineers.
Of the 20km metro route, the first 11km is scheduled to be completed by 2019, followed by another 4.4km by 2020 and the rest by the following year.
Jica will finance 85 percent of the total project cost at an interest rate of 0.01 percent.
The metro route will have stations at Pallabi, Chandrima Uddyan, Bijoy Sarani, Shahbagh, TSC, Bangla Academy, Curzon Hall, Topkhana and Bangladesh Bank.