Dhaka, Dec 28 (EFE).– Bangladesh launched its first metro rail line in the heavily crowded capital Dhaka on Wednesday, ushering in a new era in the country’s public transportation sector.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the metro rail network before becoming the first passenger on the Japan-funded rapid transportation system.
The metro rail would initially span an approximately 12-kilometer section before eventually growing to more than 21 kilometers and 17 stops by 2025.
According to officials, the train will be ready for public usage beginning Thursday at 8 a.m. and will first run for four hours each day before transitioning to a full-scale operation on March 26.
The Bangladesh government has been working with the Japan International Cooperation Agency to construct the $3.2-billion project.
Authorities told reporters in Dhaka on Tuesday that after the project is done, its trains would be able to transport 60,000 passengers every hour from both ends of the line.
But experts warn that it will not reduce traffic congestion significantly unless the elevated metro stations are managed carefully.
“There is no doubt, those who will use the system will get an excellent transport system,” Shamsul Hoque, a professor at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and an expert on public transport, told EFE.
“But if a bottleneck is created at every station to pick and drop the passengers, traffic congestion will not reduce, but will rather multiply. Therefore, management of station is important,” he said.
According to a 2018 World Bank study, the average driving speed in Dhaka has slowed down from 21 kmph to less than 7 kmph in recent years.
Some 3.2 million working hours are wasted every day due to congestion.
The high fares may also discourage low-income groups from using the metro rail service, said activists.
The authorities have fixed Taka 20 as a minimum fare and Taka 5 per-km fare.
That is double the minimum bus fare of Taka 10 and a per-km bus fare of Taka 2.20.
“High fares have created a barrier for low-income people to use (the service),” Mozammel Haque Chowdhury, the secretary-general of the Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh, told EFE.
“Our fares are higher than those in many Asian countries. If the fare is not reduced by at least 50 percent, I am afraid most of its capacity of carrying 60,000 per day will remain unused,” he said. EFE