Will metro rail be able to accomplish its goals?

Written By: Asif Khan Ullash

According to the recent census conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics the population of Dhaka city is 10 million 278 thousand 882 and population density is nearly 35000 per square kilometer. The amount has doubled in past 50 years. In order to accommodate its residents, the city of Dhaka has grown significantly throughout time and undergone significant infrastructure changes. The city has suffered greatly as a result of the city’s unplanned, fast development, as have its residents.

For example, the average speed of vehicles has come down to 6.8 kmph from 21 kmph in 2014. According to research commissioned by the BRAC Institute of Government and Development, Dhaka’s traffic delays take up around 5 million working hours daily and cost the nation USD 11.4 billion annually. The government passed the Metro Rail project in 2012 to ease the inconvenience of public transportation and reduce traffic congestion.

The official name of the project is, “Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development Project.” A total of five route lines, including Lines 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6, were suggested for the project. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-funded “The Dhaka Urban Transport Network Development Survey (DHUTS 1)” was assessed, and “MRT Line-6” was chosen as the first MRT line for Metro Rail. MRT Line 6 was originally planned to be 20.1 km long, running from Uttara to Motijheel. However, the line was eventually extended to Kamalapur, adding 1.16 km to the overall distance. It will be 21.26 kilometers long in total. There will be 24 train sets operating on the line, which will include a total of 17 stops. Once the project is completed, the Dhaka Metro Rail is expected to carry around 60,000 passengers per hour or 960,000 passengers per day from dawn to midnight. So, assuming everything works out as planned, metro rail might have a significant influence on Dhaka’s traffic situation.

Nowadays it takes about three to four hours to travel from Kamalapur to Uttara, sometimes more. The 20-kilometer journey from Uttara’s northernmost point to Motijheel is expected to take 35 minutes by metro rail. There would be six air-conditioned cars on every train. This project is sure to save a lot of working hours. which will save $2.4 billion per year, which is equivalent to 1.5 percent of the national GDP. There will be a large demand for labor to operate and maintain the metro rail, which would result in numerous employment opportunities. The commercial centres near the stations will need a large staff to run their operations. All of those jobs will boost economic activity and ultimately benefit the national economy.

Now, here comes the tricky part, the Metro Rail project was established with the intention of offering a time- and money-saving remedy for the traffic issue. Is it capable of achieving its goals? 

The project cost will increase by 52.25 percent, or Tk 11,487 crore to Tk 33,472 crore, according to the revision request the Road Transport and Highways Division provided to the Planning Commission. It originally cost 21, 985 crores of taka. This increase in cost has also increased the minimum fare and fare per kilometer. With a minimum fee of Tk20, customers may travel to a maximum of two stations. Each subsequent stop costs Tk10 extra, bringing the total cost of the track from Uttara to Motijheel to Tk90. With the exception of three stations in Uttara, there is often not more than one kilometer between stops. Thus, the fee is around Tk10 per kilometer. This is nearly 5 times more expensive than using public transportation like bus or leguna! This will not help the current situation at all. If the metro train price is too high compared to the daily wages of Dhaka’s working class, lower and lower middle class, and employees in the textile and export-oriented industries, it will be unable to guarantee the maximum utilization of the system. If the metro train is solely constructed as a method of transportation for middle-class and affluent people, Dhaka’s traffic congestion won’t be greatly lessened. 

Another key thing is positioning of the metro rail stations, planning to divide the traffic entering and leaving the city from the primary traffic within the city is required to maximize the benefits of congestion reduction from any public transportation. We can see the link to Dhaka Airport in the two route designs for Metrorail and BRT, but we cannot see how the other 10 important routes into and out of Dhaka are connected.

Yes, there are numerous theoretical benefits to metro rail, but it seems that the planning and congestion-reduction strategies that surround it are fundamentally faulty. These kinds of ambitious undertakings can have a bigger impact if they are adequately evaluated economically and demographically. This could be another eye candy piece of infrastructure like the flyovers that does not contribute to sustainable development.

Featured Image Courtesy: The Daily Star


শিবলী কায়সার (০১ ফ্রেব্রু, ২০২২) মেট্রোরেলঃ একটি অর্থনৈতিক বিশ্লেষণ যুগান্তর https://www.jugantor.com/todays-paper/jugantor-23-anniv/515431/মেট্রোরেল–একটি-অর্র্থনৈতিক-বিশ্লেষণ

Tuhin Shubhra Adhikary, Rejaul Karim Byron (18 Jul, 2022) | Dhaka Metro Rail now set to cost 50% more |The Daily Star | https://www.thedailystar.net/news/bangladesh/transport/news/metro-now-set-cost-50pc-more-3072816

Shohel Mamun | (06 May, 2022) | Govt: Metro rail fare based solely on operating cost | Dhaka Tribune | https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2022/05/06/govt-metro-rail-fare-based-solely-on-operating-cost

Star Online Report | (30 Apr, 2022) | Fact box: All you need to know about metro rail project | The Daily Star | https://www.thedailystar.net/country/dhaka-metro-rail-project-in-bangladesh-fact-box-all-you-need-to-know-about-this-1569868

Abu Afsarul Haider | (13 May, 2018) | Traffic jam: The ugly side of Dhaka’s development | The Daily Star | https://www.thedailystar.net/opinion/society/traffic-jam-the-ugly-side-dhakas-development-1575355

ফয়েজ আহমদ তৈয়্যব | (১২ জানু, ২০২২) । মেট্রোরেল কি অসহনীয় যানজট ও বিশৃঙ্খল গণপরিবহনব্যবস্থা থেকে মুক্তি দেবে? । প্রথম আলো । https://www.prothomalo.com/opinion/column/ মেট্রোরেল-কি-অসহনীয়-যানজট-ও-বিশৃঙ্খল-গণপরিবহনব্যবস্থা-থেকে-মুক্তি-দেবে

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