The authorities in Chattogram City recently carried out a feasibility study of a metro rail system on the instructions of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The directive of the premier made commuters optimistic about getting a smoother means of transportation, but the study finds that that the flyovers in the city are the main obstacles in developing a plan for a metro rail.
Specialists say that the metro rail will not reach large sections of the city because a flyover and an elevated expressway block those routes. They say the flyover and the expressway have to be demolished to run metro rail lines to those areas.
Delwar Hossain Majumder, a member of the Parikalpita Chattogram Forum and a city planner, said, "Even before the construction of the flyovers, we repeatedly said they were being built without proper planning. The Chittagong Development Authority built these flyovers to dazzle everyone. But there is no intersection in the city where flyovers are required to ease traffic. This was confirmed in a survey by the Chittagong Development Authority itself.
Delwar also said, "There is no alternative to building a metro rail system to control the chaos in the public transportation system. But it is uncertain if the residents of Chattogram will ever get a metro rail. The alternative roads are very narrow. Setting up metro rail lines in those areas will increase the cost many fold. But we still hope the government constructs a metro rail system to regulate public transportation in this burgeoning city."
Shahinul Islam Khan, the chief city planner of Chittagong Development Authority, said, "The flyovers are built for private cars. Chattogram needed a bus rapid transit (BRT) and mass rapid transit (MRT) lines. Instead of that, some flyovers were built without much planning. Now constructing a metro rail will cost much more than it would have before."
Chattogram City Corporation appointed Basosthan Engineers and Consultants Limited to conduct the feasibility study of the metro rail project.
The feasibility study report recommended constructing three mass transit lines, 54.5 kilometers in length, and 47 stations. Estimated cost of setting up each kilometer of the transit lines is Tk1,545 crore.
MRT line-1, one of the proposed routes, stretches from Kalurghat to the Airport area, while MRT line-2 runs from City Gate to Shah Amanat Bridge circle and MRT line-3 goes from Oxygen area to Kotowali and from Pachlaish to AK Khan intersection.
According to the report, the two hurdles in building the MRT line-1 are the flyover from Bahaddarhat to Lalkhan Bazar and the elevated expressway from Lalkhan Bazar to the Airport area. But there is no problem in setting up MRT line-2 and MRT line-3.
The report by the consultancy firm said the road from Kalurghat to the Airport area is the main thoroughfare in the city, but there is a flyover from Bahaddarhat to Lalkhan Bazar. So, metro rail lines can be set up from Bahaddarhat to Lalkhan Bazar through Chawkbazar and Kazir Deuri. It said the ongoing construction of the elevated expressway from Lalkhan Bazar to the Airport area can be halted, or the metro lines can be incorporated in the plan for the elevated expressway.
Rafiqul Islam, additional chief engineer of Chattogram City Corporation, was involved in the feasibility study of the metro rail project. He told The Business Standard, "The flyovers are obstructing the plan for metro rail lines from Kalurghat to the Airport area. So the MRT lines are designed by using alternative roads."
When contacted, Zahirul Alam Dubash, the chairman of Chittagong Development Authhority said, "Thousands of people come to the city every day, but its area is not expanding. The public transportation system in the city is in very poor condition. So building a metro rail is necessary. But, it can be done despite the problems posed by the flyovers."
Chattogram City Mayor AJM Nasir Uddin, said, "We needed metro rail instead of flyovers in Chattogram. Now the flyovers are creating obstacles. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered a feasibility study for a metro rail project. Hopefully, the metro rail will be constructed in Chattogram."