Underground Metro: First one by 2026

Construction of the country’s first underground railway may start in July with funds from Japan.

Named MRT Line-1, this track will link the capital’s airport and Kamalapur. It will also have an elevated part to connect Purbachal with Notun Bazar. The project deadline is 2026.

The line will also link the proposed Terminal-3 of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport so passengers can travel to most parts of the country using the route.

It will carry an estimated 14 lakh people a day.

The MRT Line-1 is second among the five Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) lines to be built under state-owned Dhaka Mass Transit Company Ltd.

Japan has committed to fund the project, and the Economic Relations Division (ERD) accepted Japan’s proposal for funding at a meeting in December.

The final loan agreement is expected to happen in June, an ERD official said last week, adding that the amount would be decided later on.

The estimated project cost has been set at Tk 50,000 crore, but the actual amount will be known after the design is finalised, according to the ERD.

Japan is also funding the country’s first elevated metro rail, MRT Line-6, from Uttara to Motijheel. Construction of the 20.1km track is now underway and may be completed by next year.

The government wants to build all the five metro lines — one elevated, one underground, and three underground plus elevated — in the capital and its adjacent areas by 2030 to ease traffic and reduce pollution, the two major problems facing the mega city of more than 1.5 crore residents.

The 31.24km MRT Line-1 will have two parts — around 19.87km from Airport to Kamalapur with 16.4km underground, and around 11.36km of elevated rail from Notun Bazar to Purbachal.

Of its total length, 3.65km would be for transition from underground to elevated and vice versa.

“We will begin the construction in July and people will be able to use the service by 2026,” said MAN Siddique, managing director of Dhaka Mass Transit Company Ltd, which is implementing the project.

There will be a trial run for a year before its formal launching, he said.

The line will have 12 underground stations — at Airport, terminal-3 of the airport, Khilkhet, Jamuna Future Park, Notun Bazar, Uttar Badda, Badda, Hatirjheel, Rampura, Malibagh, Rajarbagh and Kamalapur.

The Purbachal part will have nine stations — Notun Bazar, Jamuna Future Park, Bashundhara, Police Officers’ Housing Society, Mastul, Purbachal West, Purbachal Centre, Purbachal Sector-7 and Purbachal depot.

Of them, seven would be elevated and the remaining two — Notun Bazar and Jamuna Future Park — would be underground as part of the Airport-Kamalapur route.

The Notun Bazar station would serve as an interchange.

Siddique said a feasibility study had been done and the Technical Project Plan (TPP) was approved by the Planning Commission.

“On the basis of the TPP, we are now preparing the Development Project Proposal (DPP),” he said, adding that a Japanese company-led consortium started working on the design on December 9.

The consortium would prepare plans for land acquisition, compensation and rehabilitation of the affected people as well as construction of the depot, Siddique told this paper.

“We will prepare the DPP by June and send it to the Ecnec [Executive Committee of the National Economic Council]. The main work will start after its approval.”

The depot will be set up in Rupganj of Narayanganj.

“We will build the depot first. In the meantime, we will float tenders for other work,” he said.

In 2017, Japan lent Bangladesh 5,590 million yen (around $51 million) for appointing consultants and other preliminary work for the project.

Last year, two inspection teams from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) visited Bangladesh to see the progress, said an ERD official.