Much anticipated metro opens in traffic-choked Dhaka

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
Much anticipated metro opens in traffic-choked Dhaka Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (left) inaugurates the metro rail service in Dhaka, Dec. 28, 2022.
[Courtesy Press Information Department]

Bangladesh on Wednesday launched Dhaka’s much anticipated metro rail line that will ease the capital’s notorious traffic congestion and save hundreds of millions of dollars a year in lost productivity.

When completed next year, the journey from north to south Dhaka, which takes two-and-a-half hours by road, will be slashed to 38 minutes via the U.S. $3.5 billion metro rail.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated and traveled on the first 12-kilometer stretch of the Japanese-built line, from Uttara  in north Dhaka to Agargaon in the south. The 20-km line will extend farther south to the commercial hub of Motijheel. 

“One more feather after the Padma Bridge was added to the journey of Bangladesh’s development with inaugurating the metro rail,” Hasina said before the inauguration, according to Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha, a state-run news agency. 

She was referring to the country’s most expensive infrastructure project, which spans the Padma River and opened in June. 

A road transport ministry official didn’t specify when the line would be complete.

“The construction of the second portion of the metro rail, from Agargaon to Motjheel, is almost finished,” A.B.M. Amin Ullah Nuri, secretary of the Ministry of Road Transport, told BenarNews. “We can start train service on the whole route within months next year.”

“By 2030, the whole of Dhaka city and the suburbs will come under the metro rail network. Once completed, the metro rail will revolutionize Dhaka’s traffic system by greatly reducing traffic jams,” Nuri said.

The first section of the rail line will officially open to passengers starting Thursday, for four hours a day, a Dhaka Mass Transit Company Ltd. official told reporters.

“Gradually the number of trains and timing would be stretched,” M.A.N. Siddique, managing director of the company said, adding that while the section has nine stops, only the two end points will initially be operational.

One of the passengers on the inaugural train expressed his delight at its speed.

“I got on board the train today. The train reached Agargaon from Uttara in just 10 minutes 10 seconds. This is simply unbelievable,” Md. Touhidul Islam told BenarNews, about a journey that would take about an hour by car.

“If you travel by private car or a taxi from Uttara to Motijheel, it will take at least two and half hours, but the metro will take you to Motijheel in just 38 minutes. The metro rail will surely change the commuting landscape in Dhaka.”

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), a governmental agency that assists economic and social growth in developing countries, funded the project for which construction began in 2016.

‘Safe, rapid, comfortable and punctual’

Ahsan H. Mansur, executive director of Policy Research Institute, a think-tank, said Dhaka’s gridlocks caused an indirect loss of about 3% in GDP.

“JICA says that this part of the metro rail will save U.S. $350 million every year,” he said.

“If the whole city was brought under the metro rail network, we could save billions of dollars per year by rescuing the valuable time wasted on the road.” 

The metro rail project could result in annual savings of $2.4 billion, or 1.5% of the country’s GDP, according to an op-ed this month in local newspaper the Dhaka Tribune.

The Japanese embassy in Dhaka called the capital’s metro rail project “historic.”

“The country’s first-ever electric railway will provide safe, rapid, comfortable and punctual mass transit service in Dhaka with various Japanese state-of-the-art technologies,” it said in a statement Wednesday.

At the inauguration, PM Hasina paid tribute to seven Japanese nationals killed in the July 2016 terrorist attack by Muslim militants at the Holey Artisan café in Dhaka. The Japanese nationals had come to Bangladesh as consultants for the metro rail project.

“We have built a memorial in Diabari in honor of the seven Japanese nationals,” the road transport secretary, Nuri, told BenarNews.

The plaque reads: “We pay solemn tribute to: Hashimoto Hideki, Kurosaki Nobuhiro, Ogasawara Koyo, Okamura Makoto, Sakai Yuko, Shimodaira Rui and Tanaka Hiroshi.”


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