Construction of a rail track around the capital is expected to begin in June next year, to further ease the city's perennial traffic woes, officials said.
This would be the first large rail project, worth an estimated $8.5 billion, centring the mega city of over 1.5 crore people.
Once built, commuters would be able to travel from the capital's one end to the other without having to get into the city, thus decreasing the traffic pressure on the city streets.
The 82km elevated and double-line system would have 20 stations and 10 interchanges with metro rail, according to a pre-feasibility study done by a Chinese firm.
Bangladesh Railway “successful negotiated” with a China-Bangladesh consortium, which is expected to start the feasibility study within two months. The consortium would also prepare the Detailed Project Proposal (DPP), officials said.
“If everything, including financing of the project, goes according to the plan, we are hopeful about starting the construction of the circular rail network by June next year,” said Project Director Monirul Islam Firozi.
China Railway SIYUAN Survey and Design Group Company Ltd, along with local firms BETS Consulting Services Ltd and Engineers and Advisors Ltd, will carry out the feasibility study within a year at a cost of Tk 18.92 crore.
“We are hopeful that the contract with the consortium will be signed within two months and feasibility study will start,” Mofazzel Hossain, secretary of railways ministry, told The Daily Star last month.
The stations will be located at Tongi, Termuk, Purbachal, Beraid, Kayetpara, Demra, Siddhirganj, Chowdhury Bari, Chasara, Fatullah, Shyampur, Sadarghat, Babu Bazar, Nawabganj, Sankar, Gabtoli, Dhaka Zoo, Birulia, Uttara, and Dhour, according to project documents.
The project cost as well as the number of stations and interchanges with metro rail could be revised after the feasibility study, said Firozi.
WHY CIRCULAR RAIL?
Even though the project is yet to break ground, Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan in parliament on February 4 said 19 percent progress had been made until December last year.
Project Director Firozi, also director (engineering and estate) of Bangladesh Railway, said it was not possible for road, as a single mode, to handle the huge number of passengers in the city.
“It [circular rail] would play a vital role in reducing traffic jam in the city,” he added.
Traffic jams in Dhaka eat up around 5 million working hours every day and the average speed of vehicles during rush hours in the city has come down to 5kmph, according to the Accident Research Institute of Buet.
ARI's former director Prof Moazzem Hossain said success of the circular rail would depend on its proper integration with road and other rail [metro rail and commuter train] routes inside the city.
He said people would use the circular rail and at one point his or her journey would require entering the city. “So a proper integration between rail and road routes inside the city is a must.”
As per the Revised Strategic Transport Plan (RSTP) for Dhaka city and its adjacent areas, the government would build five metro rail lines and two Bus Rapid Transit, dedicated lane for buses, routes to ease congestion.
The circular rail line is not in the RSTP.
Asked, Firozi said the RSTP was not something that was locked. It needed to be revised every five years.
“We have asked the Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority, which is now revising the RSTP, to incorporate the circular rail in the plan,” he said.
The DTCA is responsible for preparing strategic transport plan, providing regular supervision, and coordinating all possible planning for transportation infrastructure development within Dhaka city and nearby districts.
An official of the DTCA said they were considering the inclusion of the circular rail in the plan.
“The rail authorities have informed us about the feasibility study and we would decide after going through the study report,” the official added, asking not to be named.
Last year, more than a dozen Japanese companies had shown interest in investing in eight infrastructure projects in Bangladesh under a new government-to-government initiative. The Dhaka circular rail line was one of them.
Under the new arrangement, Japanese companies would invest without participating in any bidding.
Mofazzel Hossain, secretary of the railways ministry, said it was yet to be decided how the project would be financed.