Metro rail project ready to roll

Loan negotiations, detailed design next month
After a hiccup over a partial change in the route, the $1.7 billion metro rail project has gained momentum as its major financier Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) is set to start loan negotiations with the government next month.
Experts will begin an exercise next month to prepare a detailed design for the project. It will be completed before signing of the loan agreement in December, Jica officials in Dhaka said.
A three-member team of Jica visited the capital recently to see the progress of the project and prepare grounds for loan negotiations. They held meetings with the officials of communications ministry and External Resources Division.
The Japanese governmental agency is ready to finance 80 percent of the project cost as soft loan to construct the metro rail, considered the most viable option for transporting thousands of passengers in a densely populated city like Dhaka.
The mass transport will carry some 60,000 passengers in an hour during peak time, found a Jica study. It also estimated $12 million for each kilometre of the elevated part while $48 million for the underground segment.
Commuters will have to pay Tk 2.50 for travelling each kilometre.
An international pre-qualification tender will be floated by the end of this year to select prospective firms for the first ever metro rail in the country, sources in communications ministry said.
Things are now moving faster than before, noted Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain.
The environmental study and setting up of a depot are now in final stage while some other small issues will be resolved soon, he added.
The government will enter a deal with the successful bidder in the first quarter of the next year to ensure the construction work of the mass transport network starts by June or July next year, maintained the minister.
The Japanese agency has almost completed the feasibility study on the modified part of the 21.5-kilometre-long metro route stretching from Uttara Third Phase to Sayedabad, also known as Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Line-6.
The communications ministry on February 1 modified the route as it conflicted with the under-construction Gulistan-Jatrabari flyover. The move cast uncertainty on the project.
The adjustment was made after Jica finished its study on the original route starting from Uttara Third Phase to Sayedabad via Pallabi, Farmgate, Sonargaon Hotel, TSC of Dhaka University, Central Shaheed Minar, Fulbaria, Gulistan and Tikatuli.
As per the modification, the route from TSC has been diverted towards Curzon Hall, Jatiya Press Club, Bangladesh Bank and up to the Kamalapur Railway Station.
An earlier study of Jica chalked out three routes for the project and suggested to implement the first one (Uttara Third Phase to Sayedabad).
According to project officials, the first phase of the metro will be built mainly on government land and some existing roads. The 1.8 kilometre of the route between Bangladesh Bank and Kamalapur Railway Station might be built underground as it has several high-rises.
The project will be implemented in three phases under the Strategic Transport Plan (STP) to ease the perennial traffic gridlock in the capital.

-With The Daily Star input

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