The Bangladesh Railway has taken the initiative to build a business hub on a 40-acre area around the capital's Tejgaon railway station three years after the project was set aside.
This Business Hub, planned under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement, will be the first Transit Oriented Development (TOD) project, which maximises the amount of residential, business and leisure space within walking distance of public transport points.
Railway sources said the World Bank is joining the project feasibility study of the project, under which a multi-storey commercial complex will be built over the railway tracks by keeping the rail traffic system in place.
The railway authority has estimated a $98.84 million capital expenditure and $0.24 million operational cost for the project.
"In a meeting with the World Bank last month, the World Bank asked for 5 project proposals from the railway. They will decide on financing once the feasibility study is done," SM Salimullah Bahar, chief planning officer of Bangladesh Railway, said.
"Construction of the business hub is on top of our list of projects we submitted," he added.
Railway Minister Md Nurul Islam Sujan said, "We are planning to increase revenue from non-core sources besides the core activities of railways (transportation of passengers and goods)."
The minister pointed out that the same is being done in many countries.
"Our goal is to invest in unused railway lands, focus on important stations and increase the revenue of railways," he said, adding, "Multi-modal transport hubs, markets and hotels will be built."
The railway is moving forward with the project in Tejgaon as the station there is an important one and the surrounding areas present the scope for it to be utilised commercially.
Officials say the projects to develop the Kamalapur and Airport stations as multi-modal transport with World Bank funding are on track to be finalised and the infrastructure of Tejgaon station will be developed in line with that.
Officials of the Railway and PPP authorities said that the railway fell short of presenting the project to build a business hub in the cabinet meeting on economic affairs back in December 2020 and postponed the matter due to complications over regaining illegally occupied railway land.
There was doubt over the implementation of the project through freeing the Tejgaon station land, which is being used as a truck station.
At the time, the PPP office prepared the Screening Assessment Report, which termed the project as a profitable one.
According to the railway's basic concept of the business hub, a deck over the railway with columns will be constructed for airspace development and placed in a grid at ground level, to avoid the railway tracks. After that construction above the deck can take place without interrupting rail services.
The complex will be built with multi-dimensional commercial office spaces, international hotels and community halls in it.
Md Abul Bashar, director general of PPP authority, said, "Our Screening Assessment Report considered the project viable. But the railway later backtracked. The project can still be implemented if the railway is interested."
The report also noted that the efficient use of unused land assets of Bangladesh Railway will add financial benefits to it.
TOD projects have been very popular around the world, including in France, Japan, USA, Canada, and South Africa. These countries are using the model to maximise the effectiveness of government assets. Tokyo and Tomaya stations in Japan, Kuala Lumpur station in Malaysia and Lima station in Peru are among the projects delivered through the PPP scheme successfully.
Railway officials said that around 80% of the railway land around Tejgaon station are illegally occupied. Other than the truck stands, most of the land in Railway Colony next to Tejgaon station is also occupied by various individuals.
However, when the railway project is finalised, the land will be freed, said Suzon Chowdhury, chief estate officer (East).
Of the total 40-acre area of the station and adjacent area, a nearly 8-acre area remains unused.
Meanwhile, Talukder Monir, president of Truck Covered Van Drivers Association, told TBS that the association will not vacate the place until an alternative site is provided for trucks and covered vans.
He claimed that the association has an agreement with the railway to use the space in Tejgaon and as per that agreement, the stand cannot be vacated unless the government provides an alternative site.
Md Safiulla, estate officer, Dhaka Bangladesh Railway, however, said that the railway does not have any entity for the truck stand at Tejgaon.
"We are not pushing to recover the area as the railway is not needing it at the moment. It will be recovered whenever required by Bangladesh Railway," he added.