The Dhaka Subway will alleviate traffic concerns for commuters by 2030, in the first phase, with the network boasting a capacity to transport 60 lakh passengers.
Whether a subway is the best course of action for this, however, is another issue of debate, experts said.
Each kilometre on the 258km Dhaka Subway network, encompassing 11 proposed routes, will cost Tk3,377 crore at current prices.
The total cost of the project will be Tk8,71,273crore, according to the final draft report of the Dhaka Subway.
But the money may just be worth it.
The same report says that after completion of the first phase, 60 lakh passengers can be transported, while 2.7 crore can be transported by 2070.
According to the report projection, the population of Dhaka will be 5.4 crore in 2070, which means that almost half of the city-dwellers can use the new network, decreasing the near-crippling traffic on the road.
Referring to the investment on the subway as a white elephant, ShamsulHaque, a communications expert and professor at Buet, however, said while it would be a momentous occasion for Bangladesh, no one else is building underground metros.
Meanwhile, construction of four 105km subways, at a cost of Tk350,066cr, is targeted to start in 2022 in the first phase and expected to be completed by 2030.
The first phase will be implemented in the following routes: Gabtoli to Mastul (Route-B), Tongi to Jhilmil (Route-O), Keraniganj to Kanchpur (Route-S) and Narayanganj to Uttara Sector-13 (Route-T).
A total of 85 underground stations have been proposed in the Preliminary Design 2030 Network for the time being under the Dhaka Subway Project.
In the second phase, four more subways have been proposed to be completed by 2040, with three more in the third phase expected to be completed by mid-2050.
Work on the design of 90km of the first phase has already been completed.
The feasibility study is being conducted jointly by Japan, PADECO, and BCL Associates, with Spanish company Técnica y Proyectos S.A. SA (TYPSA) leading the consultation.
The consulting firm recently submitted the final draft report to the bridge authority. It was hired in 2018 by the Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) and tasked with the responsibility of conducting a feasibility study.
The feasibility study emphasised the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model for the subway construction to reduce the risk of financing. Through this, long-term financing needs will be met, while the investment risk is reduced, the report said.
Officials at BBA said the construction of the four subways in the first phase would cost an average of $5 billion a year. However, in the three years between 2025-27, spending pressure will ramp up as the project will require an outlay of $8-10 billion. Afterwards, the expenditure level will fall again and it will be possible to go for a launch by 2029.
Quazi Muhammad Ferdous, chief engineer of BBA and project director of the Dhaka Subway Study project, said that after receiving the draft final report, various initiatives have been taken to raise funds for the construction of the subway. Funding proposals have been sent to various development partners on a government-to-government basis.
Besides, proposals have been sent to various countries, including Korea and Japan, for the construction of the subway on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis. It is hoped that the investments will be confirmed in the short term, he said.
Traffic aside, what else?
The final draft report mentioned that the subway will increase economic activity and aid the city in becoming a well-planned one.
It also said that Dhaka faces the challenge of developing a high-capacity transportation system that will be capable of meeting the mobility needs of a dense population with high growth rates and, according to the current trend, a subway system is the best tool to overcome the challenges.
The full network has been conceptualised for future scenarios according to the significant population growth that will modify the population distribution and travel patterns.
The subway metro rail system will be integrated with the Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) or Elevated Metrorail and the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines, which will take people off the already gridlocked streets.
According to the draft final report, subways always have environmental benefits as those create less gaseous and particulate matter pollutants and no noise pollution. Subways can also improve the health of people and living conditions in a city.