In a major breakthrough following a nearly three-year hiatus, the government yesterday approved a project to set up the country's first metro rail system in Dhaka at a cost of Tk 21,985 crore.
A 20.1 kilometre elevated railway track will be built on Uttara-Motijheel route via Pallabi and Sonargaon Hotel area under the project, which will be implemented in three phases, according to a planning ministry statement.
In the first phase, 11 km of railway track will be laid from Pallabi to Sonargaon Hotel by 2019; in the second phase, 4.4 km line will be installed from Sonargaon Hotel to Bangladesh Bank at Motijheel by 2020; and in the third phase, 4.7 km track from Uttara to Pallabi will be set up by 2022.
The project will start this year and end in fiscal year 2023-24.
The Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved the project in a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
Japan will bear 76 percent (Tk 16,595 crore) cost of the project while the remaining 24 percent would come from government funds. Japan has already approved $133 million for the project in the current fiscal year.
The project aims to reduce traffic jam through the installation of an elevated metro rail system, which will be the first of its kind in the capital, said the ministry statement.
The project seeks to promote a massive socioeconomic development through the modernisation of public transport system, it said.
The project gained momentum recently after a nearly three-year delay over the change of route of the metro rail. The delay increased the project cost to $2.7 billion from $1.7 billion.
Several international companies have been short-listed for preparing detailed design and supervising the construction. They have been asked to submit technical and financial proposals to the government. The companies now await approval of Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica).
The metro rail project, the country's second largest infrastructure project after the $2.9 billion Padma bridge project, became uncertain last year when the proposed rail route was modified for the second time following objections from the air force. The route running across Bijoy Sarani was diverted towards Khamarbari, which irked Jica.
A change in the route was first made in 2010 to avoid overlapping with the under-construction Gulistan-Jatrabari flyover.
Jica, however, did not desert the project and waited for the government to finalise the route, find a place for a depot and set up a company that will eventually operate the metro rail.
Earlier, Jica had conducted a study on metro rail. The study said the metro rail will operate every three minutes and carry 60,000 passengers an hour.
The Ecnec also approved another project for Tk 1,230 crore to build climate resilient infrastructures in 12 coastal districts of the country's south-western region, said the planning ministry statement.
The project, which involves development of rural road network and market facility enhancement, will help lift the living standard of rural people.
The Ecnec approved a total of eight projects involving Tk 26,271 crore, said the statement.