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Move to mobilise $190 billion to fund mega transport projects

Metro rails, expressways, bus-franchise service form network for commuting in the megacity

Munima Sultana | October 16, 2017 00:00:00

A massive fundraising campaign got underway for mobilising over US $190 billion to elegantly improve Dhaka's transport network with metro rails, expressways and bus-franchise services.

Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) has taken up the step to raise the fund from development partners to finance such mega-projects over next 20 years.

Sources said only six per cent of the total investment plans, proposed in the 20-year transport plan known as strategic transport plan (STP), are now in the implementation stage as only three development partners have so far come forward to invest in four projects with an involvement of around $ 12 billion.

The STP, which was revised and approved in August 2016, proposed development of various infrastructures and transport services, like metro rails and expressways, for managing 35 million trips to be generated in and around the greater Dhaka city by 2035.

Officials said three metro projects or mass rapid transit line (MRT) are now in implementation stage with the support of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Besides, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has invested in development of dedicated bus-service project known bus rapid transit or BRT.

Though World Bank has also provided technical support for conducting feasibility study on BRT (bus rapid transit) line-3 project, its engagement in implementation stage of the same project is now underway.

"We have still many projects and proposals for investment, mainly for conducting studies to understand viability of those projects and selection of locations and routes," said DTCA executive director Syed Ahmed.

Citing examples that RSTP proposed development of six bus terminals around the city, he said only feasibility study can identify their location.

Sources said the DTCA held a meeting with all development partners at the ADB office Sunday to share and update them on the current investment scenario of the transport mega-projects. However, the meeting was attended only by JICA, ADB, Agency Francaise de Development (AFD) and the European Union. There was also no representation of the WB.

The RSTP has proposed five MRTs (mass rapid transit) lines and two BRT lines, three circular roads with eight radials and several expressways for developing road-transport network in and around the greater Dhaka city. As the RSTP also recommended rationalizing the existing bus routes and introducing franchise-bus services, investment is also needed for importing new buses and providing compensation to existing small bus investors.

In support of the move for fundraising from foreign financiers the DTCA ED said as most of these are mega-projects, it would be hard to implement those with government's own funds.

He said the objective of organizing the meeting was to coordinate or form joint venture among development partners.

Among the RSTP-recommended projects, MRT lines 1, 5 and 6 and BRT line 3 projects are in progress. Though JICA has been providing maximum supports, including studies, detailed design and implementation of three MRTs, channelising a need for Tk 1250 billion, the ADB has also shown interest to work in part of the MRT 5.

DTCA officials said as implementation of the RSTP is still a challenge, they tried to form an implementation forum, prepare priority projects including for feasibility studies and explore public-private partnership opportunity to manage its huge fund demand.

The RSTP covers Gazipur, Savar, Narayanganj and eastern fringe to bring future 35 million people under better transportation system till 2035.

The officials said search for investors has been necessary to implement the STP before its scope squeezes. The first STP formulated in 2005 was damaged due to development of many structures beyond the 20-year transport policy.

The MRT line-6 was recommended in the first STP in 2005 but its implementation work started in 2012 after JICA came forward with its investment plan of around US$ 2.7 billion. This project is expected to be completed in 2024. The ADB-funded BRT project was, however, not included in the first STP but incorporated into the revised one by tagging with BRT-3.

"As scope of development of infrastructure in main Dhaka city is getting depleted fast due to lack of control over land, study on some projects, mainly BRT-7, has been necessary so that those can be developed before scope is gone," said the ED.

He said the BRT-7 is proposed on the eastern fringe and it is still a virgin area and development of the transport system can easily be done.

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