Impact of COVID-19 pandemic
Golam Mostafa Jibon:Uncertainty is prevailing over the implementation of Metrorail project in scheduled time as most of the workers under the project have been infected with the Delta variant of coronavirus that halts the rapid progress of the project works.
But, there is the news of relief that, none of the workers have yet been reported as death by the virus. Highest two-thirds of the project works have been completed so far.
According to the project sources, the construction works of the Metrorail are going on in accordance with the hygiene rules and maintaining physical distance during the corona pandemic.
A number of steps have been taken to move the project forward by tackling the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. Field hospitals are being set up at construction sites at Gabtali and Uttara, and workers are being vaccinated. Residential installations have been constructed near the project sites for safe placement of manpower. Most of the native manpower has been vaccinated with two doses. However, maximum efforts are being made to vaccinate foreign manpower. As of last June, 734 workers, employees and officials of the domestic and foreign manpower involved in the Metrorail project have been affected by COVID-19. The rate of corona infection among the people involved in the project has also increased that puts the work at snail’s pace, officials said.
Consequently, it may not be possible to launch the Metrorail from Dhaka’s Uttara to Agargaon by next December, project insiders said. The project initially planned to launch a 12-km stretch from Uttara to Agargaon by December. However, it is impossible to complete the works in time due to slowdown of the works due to pandemic.
According to the Department of Road Transport and Highways, MRT-6 was supposed to be completed by June 2024. Later, the target was to reach Agargaon by December this year. But due to the ongoing global epidemic, it is not possible to do so in that time frame. Officials said, passenger carrying will be started after a year-long trial run. As such, there is no possibility of Metrorail running on this route before August next year.
The first set of trains brought from Japan is currently undergoing functional tests at the depot. Then next August, a performance test or test run will be started on the viaduct. Through this, rail line, electricity and signal system will be connected with the train. The performance test will be followed by a six-month integrated test. This will be followed by a trial run. But it will still be too late. Besides, the passenger movement will start after the trial run for almost a year without people.
M A N Siddique, Managing Director of Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DMTCL) said, “There are some problems due to the lockdown. Thousands of people work here. Hygiene rules must be complied, while distance must be maintained. We are abiding by these. So it must have an impact. However, the work is not stopped. Metrorail work is basically in three parts. In the first part, the overall progress from Uttara to Agargaon is 87.80 percent. The progress from Agargaon to Motijheel is65.48 percent. The progress of procurement of electrical and mechanical systems and rolling stock (railway coaches) and depot equipment is 59.48 percent. Besides, detailed design and land acquisition works are underway to extend 1.16 km from Motijheel to Kamalapur. Out of 20.10 km viaduct, 15.95 km has already been visible. Electrification work has been completed by completing the works of the receiving substation at Uttara Depot. Motijheel Receiving Substation building is under construction. The construction of 12 rail lines inside the workshop shed in the depot area has also been completed. Of the 23.96 km railway track up to Agargaon, 17 km track alignment work has been completed. Of this, 14.50 km rail line has been laid. The construction of the main infrastructure of about half of the stations has been completed.
According to DMTCL sources, the work of the project was 46.13 percent till June 2020, which stood at 67.63 percent in June this year.
In the last one year, the progress of this project has stood at 21.5 percent. By March 2020, the progress was 44.12 percent. As a result, the total progress during the corona period was 23.51 percent. Four sets of Metro trains have already arrived in the country.
Metrorail’s stainless steel coaches have vertical seating on either side. The two coaches on either side of a train are called trailer cars that will carry the train. There will be the driver. A train can be carried 306 passengers by sitting on it. The four coaches in the middle are motorcars. Passengers will travel standing in the middle of an air-conditioned (AC) nine and a half feet wide coach. For this, there are handles and poles in places. In all, 2,308 passengers can board and stand on a train. The maximum speed of these trains is 110 km.
Each set of train takes about a month to arrive in the country from Japan. In the meantime, four sets of trains have arrived in the country. Two of these sets have also reached the depot in Dhaka. Besides, two sets are on the way to Dhaka from the port. The third and fourth sets left for the country on June 22 by ship from the seaport of Kobe in Japan. It reached the country’s port on July 20. These are now in the process of being brought to the depot in Uttara.
According to Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DMTCL), the implementing agency of Metrorail Project-6, the project worth Tk 21,985 crore has progressed by 67.63 percent till last June.
Initiatives have taken to construct six Metrorail lines in Dhaka to reduce traffic congestion and ensure fast and comfortable travel. In all, Metrorail will have a network of 128 km. The work of MRT-6 started first. The Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) is lending Tk 16,594 crore for the Metrorail project taken in 2012.
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