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Dhaka Monday,  Feb 6, 2023

Bangladesh Launches Its First Metro Rail To Speed Up Stalling Commute

EB Report/BDNews

Bangladesh has rolled out its first metro rail services with great fanfare in a desperate effort to ease commuting in Dhaka, one of the world’s most crowded cities that chokes on its traffic congestion due to inadequate public transport.

Sheikh Hasina flagged off the first metro train at Uttara North Station and became the first passenger on the maiden trip to Agargaon after inaugurating the services at a ceremony marked by enthusiasm on Wednesday.

“Another feather has been added to Bangladesh’s laurel. We just inaugurated the metro rail,” the prime minister said at the ceremony on Diabari Ground as excited crowds gathered at both ends of the 11.73 km Uttara-Agargaon route to be part of history.

“Metro rail will be controlled remotely. It’ll be operated in a digital system, adding a new dimension to our commitment to establish a ‘Smart Bangladesh’.”

This metro rail section will be open to the public on Thursday on a limited scale initially to let people get used to the new experience for some days. The work to construct the rest of the elevated tracks from Agargaon to Kamalapur via Motijheel is still ongoing and expected to be completed by December 2024 after the possible opening of the Agargaon-Motijheel route by December 2023.

Highlighting the massive expenditure on the project, Hasina urged citizens to maintain cleanliness at the stations while using the electric trains in an orderly manner.

“A lot of modern technology and digital devices have been used [as part of this project] and we must make sure that they do not break. Everyone using them should make sure that no one litters in our stations or dirties them. Everyone should be aware of this. I am sincerely asking those who make use of this service to do so in a clean, proper, and orderly way and to follow the rules.”

METRORAIL AT A GLANCE

Total trains: 24

Coaches per train: 6

Uttara to Kamalapur: 17 stations

Uttara to Agargaon: 9 stations

Station height: three storeys

Uttara to Kamalapur: It will take 40 minutes

Uttara to Agargaon: It will take a maximum of 20 minutes

Passengers each trip: a maximum of 2,308

Passengers per hour: 60,000

Passengers per day: 500,000

Fare: Tk 5 per kilometre, minimum fare Tk 20

Uttara to Kamalapur total expenditure: Tk 334.71 billion

Japan’s project assistance: Tk 197.18 billion

Government resources: Tk 137.53 billion

Uttara to Kamalapur length: 21.26 km

Uttara to Agargaon length: 11.73 km

Inauguration: Dec 28, 2022

First passenger: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina

Loan agreement with Japan: In 2013

Appointment of consultants: In 2014

Opening of construction : Jun 26, 2016

Total construction companies: 7 companies and joint ventures

The Japan-backed metro rail is yet another milestone in Bangladesh’s development, according to the prime minister.

The premier also paid tribute to the seven Japanese nationals who were working on the metro rail project in Dhaka when they were killed in a gruesome terrorist attack in 2016. Hasina also paid homage to Shinzo Abe, the former Japanese prime minister who was assassinated in July.

Later, Hasina and her sister, Sheikh Rehana bought tickets from an MRT counter to board the inaugural train at the Uttara North Station.

After waving a green flag to set the first metro train on its way, Hasina and Rehana boarded another train at the platform. Ministers, diplomats, representatives of all religious communities and rail workers accompanied Hasina on her first journey in Dhaka by metro rail. The prime minister exchanged greetings with them during the journey.

The prime minister travelled to the end of the route in Agargaon in only 18 minutes before heading back to her official residence. Usually, a bus trip from Uttara to Agargaon takes two hours, or even longer if the pressure of traffic increases.

Hasina hoped to free Dhaka entirely from traffic jams through the implementation of the government’s plan to set up a network of metro rails by 2030.

Besides alleviating jams, the metro rail will play a role in GDP growth by increasing working capacity and job opportunities, she said.

MAN Siddique, managing director of the Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited, said surveys showed Bangladesh is suffering huge losses to traffic jams in Dhaka.

Once the entire metro rail network opens, the country will be able to save Tk 400 billion annually, he said.

“It was a proud moment for me as the prime minister was with us. We all know how troublesome it is to confront traffic congestion in Dhaka. I hope the metro rail will bring some respite,” said Maryam Afiza, a metro driver.

Road Transport Minister Obaidul Quader handed a replica of a metro train to Hasina at the inauguration ceremony. “I keep remembering that day in 2014 in Diabari. On Jun 11 in this same Diabari, countless people gathered to see the Metro Rail depot foundation stone laid,” Quader recalled.

“There was a horrific storm and along with it came thunderous rain. The stage broke. The tent blew away. At that difficult time – it’s hard to believe looking at all the structures here now – we could not find a single roof to take shelter. We were drenched – completely drenched – but we laid the foundation stone for the metro rail. The metro rail is not just a dream anymore. It’s visible now.”

TIMELINE

2005: The government formulates the Strategic Transport Plan or STP with the cooperation of the World Bank. The 20-year plan (2004-2024) suggests the implementation of various projects, including three metro rails and three bus-based advanced public transport systems.

2009-10: Japan International Cooperation Agency, or JICA, verifies the feasibility of STP and recommends the construction of Mass Rapid Transit Line-6 first.

2010-11: Feasibility study of MRT Line-6 or the route from Uttara to Motijheel is done.

Dec 18, 2012: Executive Committee of the National Economic Council, or ECNEC, approves the ‘Construction of Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Line-6’ project.

Feb 20, 2013: Loan agreement is signed with JICA.

Jun 3, 2013: Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited, or DMTCL, is formed under the road transport and bridges ministry for the implementation of the project and the maintenance of the metro rail.

Oct 31, 2013: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina lays the foundation stone.

Nov 29, 2013: Consultants are appointed for MRT Line-6.

Jan 26, 2015: Parliament passes the Metro Rail Act.

2015-16: The number of metro rail routes is increased by revising the STP with the help of JICA through the passage of a proposal to build a total of six metro lines and extend MRT Line-6 to Kamalapur.

Jun 26, 2016: Hasina inaugurates the country’s first metro rail construction work.

Mar 31, 2021: The first consignment of metro rail coaches from Japan arrives in Bangladesh.

Aug 29, 2021: Metro rail undergoes first trial run.

Nov 29, 2021: Performance test begins from Uttara North to Mirpur-10.

Dec 12, 2021: Performance test from Uttara North to Agargaon station begins.

Dec 28, 2022: Hasina inaugurates the metro rail from Uttara North to Agargaon.

Dec 2023: The Agargaon to Motijheel section is expected to open to the public.

Dec 2024: The entire metro rail route from Uttara to Kamalapur is expected to open.

‘TO BE PART OF HISTORY’

A large number of enthusiastic people, mostly grassroots leaders of the ruling Awami League and its affiliates, gathered near the Agargaon Station, where the celebratory spirit was high with the road under the metro rail decorated with banners and festoons.

The crowds cheered as Hasina waved at them and showed them her MRT pass.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, her sister Sheikh Rehana and senior Awami League leader Matia Chowdhury travel from Uttara to Agargaon on the maiden passenger trip of Dhaka Metro Rail on Wednesday, Dec 28, 2022.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, her sister Sheikh Rehana and senior Awami League leader Matia Chowdhury travel from Uttara to Agargaon on the maiden passenger trip of Dhaka Metro Rail on Wednesday, Dec 28, 2022.

Jesmine Ara, secretary of Mohila Awami League’s Naogaon unit who has been in Dhaka for a week to join the celebrations, came to Agargaon to get a glimpse of Hasina as Jesmine could not visit Uttara’s Diabari due to a lack of time.

“The metro rail’s door is opening. Nothing is comparable to this joy,” she said.

Sylhet resident Nasir Uddin came to Dhaka on Tuesday to meet a relative and did not want to miss the chance to witness the opening of the metro rail at Agargaon.

“People in Sylhet are also excited about metro rail. Now we have a metro rail. I’ll ride the metro train tomorrow before returning home,” he said.
Bangladesh launches its first metro rail to speed up stalling commute

Kazi Asiya Joynul Benu, an Awami League leader from Natore, said he had met the prime minister during the party council earlier this week but could not sit at home “ignoring such a big achievement of Bangladesh”.

“I’ve come to Agargaon to be part of history.”

He wished Hasina good health, saying more metro rails will be built if the Awami League remains in power.

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