The wheels of the much-awaited metro train rolled, at last. Of course on an experimental basis. Through this, Bangladesh entered the era of electric trains.
The first set of the metro train coaches were set up at the metro rail depot in the Uttara Diabari area of the capital on Tuesday morning.
The train with six coaches travelled around 500 metres from the workshop. This train is fully electric. Kawasaki, a Japanese company, is the manufacturer of the train. A driver from the manufacturer drove the train.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader got virtually connected to the event from his residence as the chief guest.
"Metro train is no longer a dream, it is a reality. Metro train's performance test on the mainline above the viaduct will begin in August this year. Then the trial run will start after an integrated test," he said.
The train set arrived at the Uttara depot on 23 April from Japan. Functional tests of the first metro train set are currently underway at the depot.
The six coaches were installed at the Diabari depot with great caution.
Nineteen types of tests such as mechanical-electrical and washing were done on each coach.
After that the coaches were set up on the line. Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DMTCL) said that a device has been brought from Italy for this purpose.
The Kawasaki-Mitsubishi Consortium of Japan started construction of 24 sets of metro trains with six coaches each and one rescue train for MRT-6 in April 2019 under a Tk2,870 crore deal signed in 2017.
The deal is valid until December next year.
The construction of the first full-fledged metro train was completed in April last year and the second in September.
Reusable aluminium alloy has been used to build the bodies of the compartments and the window glasses have been made bulletproof.
The compartments weighing 22-28 tonnes are about three metres in width and 20 metres in length, and have a long-line seating arrangement.
Each of the coaches will have two air-conditioning units, with four doors for passengers.
The train will run at a maximum speed of 100 kilometres per hour. Regenerative electric brakes are being used in the trains.
The metro trains will be operated using an automated radio communication system, even without any driver.
Regarding the progress of the metro rail work, Obaidul Quader said the land development work of the depot was completed nine months ahead of schedule. This has saved the government Tk70.58 crore. The overall progress of the construction work of the depot is 88%. Out of 20.10 km viaduct, erection of 14.41 km viaduct has been completed.
Besides, construction work of 16 metro railway stations is in progress. The work of laying the railway line inside the depot has been completed. Ten and a half kilometres of the railway line has already been laid over the viaduct. Work is underway to install Overhead Catenary Wire inside the depot and on the viaduct up to Agargaon, he added.
The second metro train set reached Mongla seaport on May 9.
The minister said the progress of construction work of Agargaon section from Uttara third phase scheduled for construction in the first phase is about 85% and the progress in the Agargaon-Matijheel section in the second phase is about 60%.
The combined progress of electrical and mechanical systems and rolling stock depot equipment procurement work is about 55%, he added.
He said the overall progress of the construction of the country's first metro rail is about 64%.
Among others, Mohammad Nazrul Islam, secretary to the Road Transport and Highways Division; Yuho Hayakawa, chief representative of Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) in Bangladesh; MAN Siddique, managing director of DMTCL; and Aftab Uddin Talukder, project director of Metrorail Route-6; spoke on the occasion.
In 2012, a project involving Tk22,000 crore was approved to build over a 20km metro rail track from Uttara to Matijheel.
As per the directive from the prime minister, the project will be extended to Kamalapur. The length of the extended part will constitute an extra 1.16km.
In this regard, a preliminary survey and design work of this part has already begun. Negotiations are also underway with stakeholders.