Staff Correspondent: Bangladesh embarked upon the era of metro rail service with technical and financial support from Japan. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is financing the MRT Line-6 project from Uttara to Kamalapur. The country is also providing financial assistance in the ongoing MRT Line-1 and Line-5 construction project.
However, the government is moving away from sole dependency on Japan to implement the metro rail projects. As part of this, the government has decided to seek assistance from South Korea in the MRT Line-4 project.
This route stretches from Kamalapur in the capital to Madanpur in Narayanganj. The government held several policy-level meetings with the country. South Korea has also shown keen interest in being involved in the construction of metro rail in Bangladesh.
Although Japan was supposed to be part of the construction project of MRT Line-4 in continuation of its participation in previous metro rail projects in Bangladesh, the country was excluded this time in the end. Already a proposal seeking project funds has been sent officially to the Economic Development Co-operation Fund (EDCF) of South Korea last week.
According to the Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DMTCL), the MRT Line-4 route from Kamalapur to Madanpur in Narayanganj will go via Sayedabad, Jatrabari, ShanirAkhra, Signboard and Chattogram Road. The route will cover a distance of 16 kilometres.
The preliminary cost of the project is estimated at Tk 284 billion. Of this, the EDCF of South Korea will provide Tk 212.5 billion as loan for the implantation of the project while the Bangladesh government will bear the remaining cost of Tk 71.50 billion.
The DMTCL officials, however, are saying the projected cost is not the final as yet. The overall cost of the project can be estimated only after a detailed Survey.
Why South Korea instead of Japan?
The government is constructing five metro rail lines, including subways and elevated ways, to reduce the traffic congestion in the capital city. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is financing three of these projects. The Japanese development agency wanted to fund the proposed MRT Line-4 project too.
The Bangladesh government, however, decided not to proceed with Japan for the MRT Line-4 project. Five relevant officials shared with the reasons for choosing South Korea instead of Japan for the MRT Line-4 project.
They said that the two countries are equal in terms of quality of the project. It has been learnt through a comparative study on the expenditure of metro rail projects in the two countries that seeking funds from South Korea would be more cost effective.
Adding to that is the lack of scope of any further negotiation with Japan regarding the project cost. Now, the government has to accept whatever cost Japan is showing. The government has decided to look for alternative options to raise competition.
Bangladesh and Japan signed a memorandum of association in 2017 which stated that the MRT Line-4 project would be implemented following the PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) process at government level. However, the government has now moved away from its previous stance.
Speaking to secretary Emdad Ullah Miyan, member of the Planning Commission involved with the processing of the MRT Line-4 project said that South Korea would finance this project. It has been decided. The decision was taken in order to bring a competitive environment in metro rail projects, he added.
On condition of anonymity an official involved with the MRT Line-6 project, told “We had chances to buy the coaches of metro rail at a cheaper rate than what we spent. However, there were some obligations to procure the coaches from Japan as they financed the project. We did not have the chance to verify even the market price.”
The Line-4 route was from Kamalapur to Narayanganj railway lines in the Revised Strategic Transport Plan (RSTP). That initial route plan has been changed. The route has been extended up to Madanpur in Narayanganj.
Asked about the reason for changing the route, the DMTCL officials said Bangladesh Railway has undertaken a project to construct a double line from Kamalapur to Narayanganj. The Padma Bridge Rail Link also falls on this route. Therefore, the route of MRT Line-4 was changed.
Meanwhile, the years-old Sayedabad bus terminal would need to be shifted from its original location for the implementation of the MRT Line-6 project on the changed route. In that case, the bus terminal will be moved to Madanpur. The depot of MRT Line-4 will also be constructed in Madanpur.
Deputy secretary Nazmul Islam Bhuiyan, also the acting public relations official of the MRT Line-6 project, told “We are in discussion with South Korea over financing this project. We have decided to take a loan from them for the project implementation. An official proposal in this regard has been sent to the country.”
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