Many look agog with enthusiasm to enjoy modern and faster transport ridership as the maiden metro rail in Bangladesh is ready to roll in Dhaka today under a mass- rapid-transit project.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to flag off ceremonially and then ride an overhead train on the inaugural trip on the Uttara-Agargaon segment of the city-wide Mass Rapid Transit Line 6 (MRT 6).
The straight ride from Uttara to Agargaon is going to take 10 minutes in the MRT commuting against at least 90 to 120 minutes in congestion situation and 25 to 30 minutes in free road, thus making bus commuters delighted.
Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DTMCL) says short-time operation would be carried out initially to make commuters accustomed to the new ridership as it is very technical and needs faster mobility.
Commuters -- vexed by slow-paced road travels amid traffic jams -- feel that a history is set to be created with the inauguration of the first-ever metro rail.
"It is unbelievable that Dhaka city gets a metro rail," says Mahbubur Rahman Dipu, a contractor who uses the corridor everyday as a resident of Mirpur-6 section.
Though it took long 14 years to come to the stage of launch of 11.73-kilometre track of the 21.26-km MRT line 6, bus passengers believe it is now a matter of time to get the entire route in operation.
"It has been started, so will be available within a year or two-doesn't matter," says Pallab Biswas, a businessman in Shawrapara area.
On the eve of the event, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader briefed journalists at the Agargaon station Tuesday, disclosing the Prime Minister's inauguration function and MRT 6 features. DMTCL Managing Director MAN Siddique and Project Directors of other MRTs were present.
According to him, the Prime Minister would address a citizen gathering in the playground at Uttara Sector 15 at noon and unveil a plaque on the station premises. She would then move towards Uttara North
Station where briefing on the station facilities will be given.
The Prime Minister will finally launch the operation of MRT 6 by waving green flag and cutting ribbon at the train gate. She would get down from Agargaon station to leave the MRT premises. The PM will be the first passenger to buy MRT Pass--the IC ticket which is sold exclusively for MRT ride now.
More than 3,000 invited guests are expected to attend the inaugural gathering at the playground. Among the invitees are ministers, MPs, diplomats, civil-society members and politicians.
Refuting an allegation on a question about hurrying in launching operation partially before completion of DMTCL capacity to run full-fledged, the MD said this decision was made to make commoners accustomed to the new commuting system.
Elaborating more on the matter, he said, "Train will be running after 10 minutes with highest 200 passengers to understand the passengers' capacity to manage short-time riding and alighting the train."
The MD, however, said reviewing the situation during the operation period with commuters in coming days, more stations would be opened gradually for operation.
Full-fledged operation on the Uttara-Agargaon portion commences March 26, he said further.
Terming the MRT a dream of young generation, Obaidul Quader, the ruling party's general secretary, said MRT journey from Uttara to Kamalapur will take 38 minutes and each set of MRT trains has the capacity of carrying 2,308 passengers.
He said the MRT 6 from Agargaon to Motijheel will be opened by the end of next year and up to Kamalapur in 2025.
Replying to questions, the MD said there is no half fare on the MRT ride but 10- percent discount is given on the ride with MRT pass as per the decision of the Prime Minister. Freedom fighters can ride for free. Physically challenged people can enjoy 15-percent discount on a single ride. Children of three feet in height will not be charged if they are accompanied by parents.
When asked about the MRT fare that is high compared to that in a neighbouring country, the MD said the Kolkata metro rail was constructed long time before and its technology is not similar to MRT 6.
This MRT fare is similar to the MRTs in Indonesia and Vietnam which recently launched the mass-transit system.
The DMTCL started the MRT-6 project in 2016 after completing the feasibility study and detailed design. The cost of the MRT 6 increased to Tk 334.72 billion from Tk 219.85 billion.
Total stations of the MRT 6 are 17 and 24 sets of trains each with six coaches will be operated in full-fledged operation after 2025.
The MD said the MRT 6 is ahead of its schedule as entire 21.26-km stretch is supposed to be completed by 2025.
The MD, however, could not tell the operational cost of the first part of metro rail and said US $3.8 billion would be saved through the saving of congestion time and other costs.
The first metro-rail project in Bangladesh has to overcome various challenges, like conflicts, obstructions, non-cooperation from different quarters, to come to the current stage in 14 years now.
The full-length run will enable commuting thousands of passengers per hour as the train sets can transit 60,000 passengers per hour.
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