Dhaka subway construction work to start by this year
Tk 11,400 cr loan deal signed with Japan
Special Correspondent: Bangladesh is highly optimistic about building a subway network in Dhaka, despite many challenges that confront the expensive transport system.
Under the Metrorail Line-5 project, 13.50 km underground metrorail and 6.50 km flyover metrorail will be constructed. The total cost of the project is Tk 41,236 crore. Bangladesh has signed a loan agreement worth Tk 11,400 crore with Japan to implement the project.
Yesterday, the government of Bangladesh and Japan signed an exchange note loan agreement for the ongoing metro rail construction project.
The agreement was signed between Fatima Yasmin, senior secretary of the Economic Relations Department (ERD) and Ito Naoki, Japan’s ambassador to Bangladesh. Yuho Hayakawa, chief representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), signed the loan agreement on behalf of his country.
The alignment of this new metro rail is: Hemayetpur-Boliyarpur-Madhumati-Aminbazar-Gabtali-Darussalam-Mirpur 1-Mirpur 10-Mirpur 14-Kachukshet-Banani-Gulshan 2-From Natunbazar to Bhatara.
Out of the total cost of the project, JICA will provide Tk 30,858.46 crore. The project will be completed by December 2028.
The 20 km long line from Hemayetpur to Bhatara via Gabtali will have 14 km underground route. The remaining six kilometers will be elevated (flying) route. As a result, Metrorail will be set up on the same route with a combination of subway and flyover system.
The proposed MRT Route-5 (Northern Route) will have 14 stations. Nine of these stations will be underground. The remaining five stations will be on the ground.
The proposed underground stations are: Hemayetpur, Boliyarpur, Madhumati, Aminbazar, Gabtali, Darussalam, Mirpur-1, Mirpur-10, Mirpur-14. On the other hand, there will be flying stations at Kachukhet, Banani, Gulshan-2, Natunbazar and Bhatara.
Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development Project (Line-5) Northern Route Project Director Aftab Hossain Khan said that a loan agreement has been signed between the governments of Bangladesh and Japan under the project. The amount in Bangladeshi currency is Tk 11,400 crore.
20 km metro rail will be constructed under the project. Of this, 13.50 km will be underground, he added.
The signing ceremony of the loan agreement was completed virtually as the secretary of ERD was attacked by Corona.
The experts and professionals have said building a subway network will be challenging since Dhaka is too unplanned a city.
Along with existing infrastructures – such as flyovers, metro rail, expressway – unplanned housing will also create great hindrance to building a subway network, said the experts.
However, officials of the Bridge Division and BBA are still of the opinion that a subway network would be the best solution for Dhaka’s traffic, following a feasibility study.
Acknowledging the challenges raised by the stakeholders, officials said the subway would be built through removing all the barriers.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said: “Following the directive of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the Bridge Division has started the process of feasibility study. The study report suggested building a 258km subway network.”
“Once the network is in place, 4 million people could use the underground transport, which means fewer traffic jams,” said Obaidul Quader.
“But the authorities concerned should be careful about avoiding overlapping with the metro rail, Bus Rapid Transit and other projects undertaken by the government. Coordination among the agencies is a must for smooth implementation,” said the minister.
Experts question decision
Prof AKM Saiful Islam of the Institute of Water and Flood Management at Buet asked how the subway would be protected in monsoons as the roads in Dhaka remained waterlogged.
Bridge Division Secretary Mohammad Belayet Hossain said: “The subway stations will be built above the flood level in Dhaka city. Once Tokyo gets flooded due to heavy rain, only the subway becomes operational.
Prof AFM Saiful Amin of Civil Engineering at Buet asked: “Will the subway be constructed under the existing roads or even under the current infrastructure?”
BBA chief engineer and Dhaka Subway project director Quazi Mohammad Ferdous said along with the existing roads, the subway will pass through many residential and commercial infrastructures.
Adding to Ferdous, Belayet Hossain said: “The subway will be built 20-30m deep under the ground. There is an example of a subway going through under an 18-storied building having a depth of 80m.”
Kamrul Ahsan, former BRTA chairman, asked whether the subway would become pressurized by underground soil.
Ferdous said: “The underground structure is safer than the ground as there is nominal pressure under the 20m depth.”
Belayet Hossain said: “It is comfortable to build a subway in Dhaka’s soil as it was examined by the metro rail authority, who are going to start [constructing] underground metro rail immediately.”
“We already have the experience of building a tunnel under the Karnaphuli River,” he added.
Saima Yunus, joint chief of the Physical Infrastructure Division under the Planning Commission, raised a question on coordination between the agencies.
In reply, Belayet Hossain said that there was good coordination among the agencies as the BBA, MRT, and BRT authorities were under the same ministry.
“If the fare of the subway is much higher than that of buses, would the project be financially viable?” asked Ashraful Islam, project director of Detailed Area Plan (DAP).
Belayet Hossain said: “Subways run with subsidies from governments across the world. Despite this, they are built to ensure smooth traffic for the public.”
Prof Dr Akter Mahmud, president of the Bangladesh Institute of Planners, opined: “Dhaka is too unplanned a city to build a subway network by spending billions of dollars. Rather, it would be better to shift the capital outside Dhaka, instead of creating more chaotic traffic by building new infrastructures.”
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