Along with existing infrastructures – such as flyovers, metro rail, expressway – unplanned housing will also create great hindrance to building a subway network, said experts
Bangladesh is highly optimistic about building a subway network in Dhaka, despite many challenges that confront the expensive transport system.
The Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA), under the Road Transport and Bridges Ministry, organized a seminar on the proposed Dhaka Subway at Hotel Intercontinental on Wednesday.
Participating in the seminar, experts, professionals and discussants alike have said building a subway network will be challenging since Dhaka is too unplanned a city.
Along with existing infrastructures – such as flyovers, metro rail, expressway – unplanned housing will also create great hindrance to building a subway network, said the experts.
However, officials of the Bridge Division and BBA are still of the opinion that a subway network would be the best solution for Dhaka’s traffic, following a feasibility study.
Acknowledging the challenges raised by the stakeholders, officials said the subway would be built through removing all the barriers.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, who virtually joined the seminar as chief guest, said: “Following the directive of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the Bridge Division has started the process of feasibility study. The study report suggested building a 258km subway network.”
“Once the network is in place, 4 million people could use the underground transport, which means fewer traffic jams,” said Obaidul Quader.
“But the authorities concerned should be careful about avoiding overlapping with the metro rail, Bus Rapid Transit and other projects undertaken by the government. Coordination among the agencies is a must for smooth implementation,” said the minister.
Experts question the decision
Prof AKM Saiful Islam of the Institute of Water and Flood Management at Buet asked how the subway would be protected in monsoons as the roads in Dhaka remained waterlogged.
Bridge Division Secretary Mohammad Belayet Hossain, replying to that, said: “The subway stations will be built above the flood level in Dhaka city. Once Tokyo gets flooded due to heavy rain, only the subway becomes operational.
Prof AFM Saiful Amin of Civil Engineering at Buet asked: “Will the subway be constructed under the existing roads or even under the current infrastructure?”
In reply, BBA chief engineer and Dhaka Subway project director Quazi Mohammad Ferdous said along with the existing roads, the subway will pass through many residential and commercial infrastructures.
Adding to Ferdous, Belayet Hossain said: “The subway will be built 20-30m deep under the ground. There is an example of a subway going through under an 18-storied building having a depth of 80m.”
Kamrul Ahsan, former BRTA chairman, asked whether the subway would become pressurized by underground soil.
Ferdous said: “The underground structure is safer than the ground as there is nominal pressure under the 20m depth.”
Belayet Hossain said: “It is comfortable to build a subway in Dhaka’s soil as it was examined by the metro rail authority, who are going to start [constructing] underground metro rail immediately.”
“We already have the experience of building a tunnel under the Karnaphuli River,” he added.
Saima Yunus, joint chief of the Physical Infrastructure Division under the Planning Commission, raised a question on coordination between the agencies.
In reply, Belayet Hossain said that there was good coordination among the agencies as the BBA, MRT, and BRT authorities were under the same ministry.
“If the fare of the subway is much higher than that of buses, would the project be financially viable?” asked Ashraful Islam, project director of Detailed Area Plan (DAP).
Belayet Hossain said: “Subways run with subsidies from governments across the world. Despite this, they are built to ensure smooth traffic for the public.”
Prof Dr Akter Mahmud, president of the Bangladesh Institute of Planners, opined: “Dhaka is too unplanned a city to build a subway network by spending billions of dollars. Rather, it would be better to shift the capital outside Dhaka, instead of creating more chaotic traffic by building new infrastructures.”
According to the plan, a network of 11 subways will cover about 258km of the city. The initial plan, though, was to cover only 238km.
The BBA wants to build the first subway between Tongi and Jhilmil, which is around 28.71km, at a cost of $8 billion. Apart from this, three more routes in the first phase of the project are likely to be built by 2030. A total of 11 subways are scheduled to be built by 2041.
Route O, the first route, will be 29 kilometres long from Jhilmil to Tongi with stations in between. It will pass through Teghoria Bazar, Muslimnagar, Sadarghat, Gulistan, Kakrail, Moghbazar, Hatirjheel, BG Press, Mohakhali, Kakoli, Rajanigandha Market (Kachukhet), Bhashantek, Kalshi, Uttara Sector-17, North Baunia, Uttara Sector-14, Uttara Sector-10 and Machimpur.
The 30.51km Route B is planned to run from Gabtoli to Bolabo through 26 stations. It will cross Mirpur 11, Kalshi, Matikata, Jamuna Future Park, Bashundhara Residential Area, Mastul and Purbachol.
The 19.50km Route S will stretch from Keraniganj to Sonapur with 18 stations along it. It will pass through Lalbagh, Naya Bazar, Sayedabad, Rayerbagh, Signboard and Chittagong Road.
Route T, the longest route covering 47.54km, is supposed to run from Jahangirnagar University all the way to Narayanganj, passing through 44 stations. It will go through Ashulia Model Town East, Uttara Sector-13, Uttara North, Azampur Kacha Bazar, Shah Kabir Mazar Road, Noddapara (Dakkhinkhan), Bashundhara South, Sunvalley North, Aftabnagar East, Nandipara, Green Model Town, Rayerbagh, and Fatullah.
The 15.68km Route D is supposed to run from Bhawal to East Nandipara through 14 stations. The subway will go through Keraniganj, Hazaribagh, Science Lab, Shahbagh, Kakrail, Rajarbagh and Bashabo.
The 17.33km Route G from Bashundhara Riverview to Gabtoli will have 15 stations. It would run through Sashanghat Road, Sadarghat, Lalbagh, Hazaribagh, and Mohammadpur areas.
Route J will run from Hazaribagh to Purbachol Sector-2. It will cross Mohammadpur, Collage gate, Bijoynagar, Mohakhali, Gulshan-1, Badda and Jalshiri Sector-4.
The 22.99km Route P will run from Sadarghat to Shah Kabir Mazar, passing through Sayedabad, Bashabo, Rampura, Police Plaza, Gulshan-1, Gulshan-2, Matikata Road and Airport.
The 13.83km Route U will run from Teghoria, Kazigaon, and to Narayaganj Bandar with 8 stations.
The 16.99km Route V will run from Tongi-Gazipur’s Konabari with 10 stations.
The 15.52km Route W will run from Gabtoli-Jahangirnagar University-Ambagan route and will have 8 stations.
Earlier, the BBA appointed the Spanish firm TYPSA to provide consultancy services for carrying out a feasibility study and preparing the preliminary design for construction of the Dhaka Subway at a cost of Tk321.85 crore on September 1, 2018.
The firm recently submitted a draft feasibility study report and is scheduled to submit a final report by October.