Subway to ease Dhaka traffic further by 2030

The bridge authority plans to bring the whole of Dhaka city under a complete subway network with 11 routes by 2070

In a bid to reduce pressure on the roads of the capital city, Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) has completed a preliminary design of four routes of Dhaka Subway, aiming to complete the construction work by 2030.

The bridge authority plans to bring the whole of Dhaka city under a complete subway network with 11 routes by 2070.

“We have completed a preliminary design of four routes out of 11,” said Quazi Muhammad Ferdous, chief engineer of BBA and project director of Dhaka Subway.

According to the BBA, the four preliminary routes are the 30.51km subway line from Gabtoli to Bholabo in Rupganj, 29.35km long route from Jhilmil in Narayanganj to Tongi junction. The third route is 19.5km long between Keraniganj and Sonapur in Narayanganj, and the fourth route will be 47.54km long between Jahangirnagar University and Narayanganj.

The seven other proposed routes are from Keraniganj to East Nandipara, Bashundhara-Gabtoli, Hazaribagh-Purbachal, Shah Kabir Mazar road-Sadarghat, Teghoria Bazar-Bandar, Tongi junction-Gazipur, and Gabtoli-Ambagan.

While the BBA is optimistic about the subway project, many experts have voiced their concerns, citing the country’s social, financial and geographical realities not being conducive to the construction of a subway project in Dhaka.

Project cost

“We’ve estimated the construction cost of the subway per kilometre will be around $275 million or Tk2,362 crore,” said Muhammad Ferdous.

The BBA has to spend above $8 billion or Tk68,737 crore to build each of the first and second subway.

It appointed Typsa, a Spain-based consultancy firm, to test the feasibility of a subway in a densely populated city like Dhaka. 

The consultancy firm has already submitted its final draft report, saying that a 238km proposed Dhaka subway network with 11 routes is technically and financially feasible. 

The government should spend over $80 billion or Tk6,87,379 crore, including land acquisition to install the network in Dhaka.

Next course of action

The BBA arranged a seminar to elicit opinions over the draft final report from different stakeholders and experts on February 22 at a hotel in Dhaka.

However, it is not willing to share the preliminary design and report prior to the seminar.

“We did an internal meeting recently once we had received the draft final report of the feasibility study from a consultant and it seems the subway will be viable for Dhaka. But we will finalize our plan to construct a subway network following a seminar,” said Md Monjur Hossain, secretary of Bridge Division.

Then the BBA will approach the government on preparations for a detailed construction design of one of the 11 routes after receiving consent from stakeholders.

The BBA undertook a project, titled “Feasibility Study for Construction of Subway (Underground Metro) in Dhaka City,” in 2017 at an estimated cost of Tk315 crore to assess the possibility of such a communication network in Dhaka.

Major benefits

According to the feasibility study report, subways will help ease traffic problems to a great extent.

Experience in other countries suggests that travelling by subway is inexpensive, convenient, safe and environmentally friendly. In cities where congestion is an issue, subway travel is much quicker than other modes of transportation.

The report says subway transportation will be more economical than using private cars as commuters will be offered an unlimited monthly pass.

It also says subway travel will be beneficial to the environment as it is extremely green. Not only is it more environmentally friendly than automobile travel, but it also has an advantage over public bus systems, as subways do not emit harmful exhaust fumes into the air.

It will also ensure smooth traffic for the public in a populated city like Dhaka.

Challenges 

While the BBA authorities are optimistic with the subway project, other experts have voiced different opinions. 

Many urban planning experts of the country pointed out some major challenges for building and operating subways at a workshop last year.

The first one is unavailability of funds.

They said as the government still has not managed funds for the Dhaka-Chittagong high speed project, which is more of a priority project than any other.

According to the experts, the government must spend a big amount as subsidies to run the project as maintenance cost is higher than any other modes of transport. 

Additionally, the government would have to ensure smooth electricity supply to run the subways.

They also said the waterlogging in front of the surface roads would have to be completely removed to avoid any mishap.

“A subway would go a long way in improving the communication problems of Dhaka. But the authorities concerned should be careful about avoiding overlapping it with other modes of transport,” said Prof Dr Md Hadiuzzaman, civil engineering department, Buet.

“Construction, maintenance and operation costs would be three to four times higher than that of the regular modes of transportation. The subway tunnel will be built at a depth of 30 meters below the surface,” he added.

“There are many challenges to building a subway, but there are also engineering solutions as well. Advanced technology can be used in the construction of such projects,” said Quazi Muhammad Ferdous, chief engineer of BBA.