CONSTRUCTION on the 31.24km MRT Line 1 in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s first underground metro line, is set to start in December after a two-year delay.

On October 23, the metro line projects implementing agency, Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Company (DMTCL), signed a contract with a Japanese joint venture led by Nippon Koei for project construction supervision services. The consortium also comprises Oriental Consultants Global, Systra, Delhi Metro Rail, Nippon Koei India, Katahira and Engineers International, Development Design Consultants and Nippon Koei Bangladesh.

Work on the Taka 525.6bn ($US 5.2bn) project, said to be the biggest infrastructure project in the Bangladeshi transport sector, will start with land development for a depot at Pitalganj in Narayanganj.

The project will comprise a 19.87km underground main section from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport to Kamalapur and an 11.36km section from Notunbazar to Purbachal Terminal that will be mainly elevated, and is due to be completed in December 2026.

When completed, MRT-1 is estimated to carry 800,000 passengers per day. There will be 12 stations on the airport to Kamalapur section, with trains running at 2.5-minute intervals, and nine stations on the Notumbazar to Purbachal Terminal branch, with trains at 4.35-minute intervals.

There will be underground interchange stations between the sections at Notunbazar and Nadda. The Bangladesh government will provide Taka 131.1bn for the project while Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) will provide Taka 394.5bn as a soft loan after signing the loan agreement in July.

Managing director of DMTCL, Mr M A N Siddique, and managing director of Nippon Koei Bangladesh, Mr Naoki Kudo, signed the October 23 agreement. Japanese ambassador to Bangladesh, Mr Ito Naoki, was also present and said the contract signing ceremony was “a milestone for Bangladesh's infrastructural development.” 

Tunnel-boring will begin at the airport, Kuril, Notumbazar and Kamalapur, but DMTCL says that inconvenience to the public, mainly around the station sites, will “not be for more than three to six months” as most of the works will be underground.

On September 7, DMTCL appointed a Japanese-led joint venture firm to develop the MRT-1 depot. The contract with the so far unnamed firm is expected to be signed mid-November, with construction beginning at the start of December.

Phase 1 of Bangladesh’s first ever metro line, MRT-6, is also set to open in December from Uttara to Agargaon. This elevated line will eventually extend from Agargaon to Motijheel, making a total length of 20.1km.

The government has ambitions to build six metro lines in the capital and surrounding area with the aim of creating a network of around 130km and so easing traffic and cutting pollution.

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