The metro rail work sites have become vibrant with tremendous activities as engineers, workers and all other related are busy round the clock to make up for the time lost to the general holidays following the Covid-19 outbreak in the country.
A viaduct stretching 11 kilometres from Uttara to Agargaon has become visible. One can see construction of three stations on this part of the route has already completed while six others are also near finish.
At Diabari in Uttara, 52 structures are getting in shape for the depot. Officials there said 74% of the depot is done.
The same speed in the work of the giant infrastructure project can be seen at other sites of the network – Uttara, Mirpur, Pallabi, Kazipara, Shewrapara, Dhaka University area, Motijheel.
Satisfied with the current momentum of the work, project officials hope the project's first phase – Uttara to Agargaon – can be completed and opened by December next year.
The Uttara Centre and Uttara South stations have been completed with their concourse roofs finished recently. The construction of stations at Uttara North, Pallabi, Kazipara and Shewrapara is also progressing fast.
The Uttara South station now also has a visible platform.
The mechanical, electrical and plumbing work at the Uttara Centre and Uttara South stations has started.
The work on electrical substations, signalling, telecommunications, and controller rooms at the three Uttara stations has been going on.
According to the project implementation data, the overall physical progress of the first phase is nearing 77% and of the second phase – Agargaon to Motijheel – is 45.51%. The overall progres stands at more than 52%.
Three sets of metro rail are being manufactured in Osaka, Japan while two sets have already been finished. The first set, with six passenger coaches, was completed in the first week of April this year, while the second set was completed in the first week of September, officials said.
The authority plans to start an integrated test and trial run of the trains in phases after bringing all sets into the country. A mock-up train has already been brought to the Uttara depot.
State-owned Dhaka Mass Transit Company Ltd (DMTCL) is implementing the project. MAN Siddique, managing director of DMTCL and former senior secretary of the road transport and bridges ministry, said the authority is happy with the work pace during current pandemic situations.
"We are happy to be continuing the work like we did in normal times – overcoming the stagnancy due to the pandemic," he said.
"If we can retain this pace, the city people will be able to enjoy their dream metro rail service before the stipulated time," he said.
Although the MRT Line 6 was planned for implementation during the period of 2012-24, the first phase has been targeted to be inaugurated on 16 December 2021 – the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's victory in the Liberation War.
"As per the wish of the honourable prime minister, we will be able to complete the first phase by December next year if everything goes smoothly," Siddique added.
The DMTCL official further said the authority has made all possible arrangements for project employees to ensure maintaining health regulations.
At the primary stage, the entire workforce is checked for Covid-19 symptoms while, at the secondary stage, selected persons are tested for Covid-19 at dedicated sample collection centres, he explained.
A 10-bed isolation centre (Field Hospital) at the Gabtoli construction site and a 13-bed isolation centre (Field Hospital) at Uttara Ponchoboti yard have been constructed. And if necessary, more residential establishments will be built, Siddique continued.
"Covid-19 positive employees are sent to home or institutional quarantine, and if needed, they are admitted to a dedicated hospital. Only Covid-19 negative workers are selected and kept under 14-day group quarantine," he also said.
Till Sunday, 293 project personnel have tested positive for Covid-19 but there have been no casualties thus far, Siddique informed.
Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Line 6, the country's first elevated metro rail system, is one of the largest infrastructure development projects in Bangladesh.
The project is jointly financed by the government and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica). The project is divided into eight construction packages which will cost around Tk22,000 crore. Of the amount, Jica will provide Tk16,500 crore.
Once implemented, MRT Line 6 will run from Uttara to Motijheel – touching 16 stations along the way. Trains for the metro rail will have the capacity to transport 60,000 passengers an hour.
It will take 35 minutes to reach Motijheel from Uttara. The station will be as high as a three-storey building and will be accessible by escalators and lifts. Ticket counters and other facilities will be available on the second floor. The authorities said 12 trains will run on the routes.
MRT Line 6 is a part of the 20-year-long Strategic Transport Plan (STP) chalked out by the government. To implement it, the Bangladesh government invited Jica to conduct a primary survey and feasibility study on the transport system of Dhaka back in 2009-10.
In 2012, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved the MRT Line 6 project. A loan agreement between the government and Jica was signed in January 2013.
In order to plan, conduct surveys, design, finance, construct, maintain, and operate metro rails in Dhaka, the DMTCL was established on 3 June 2013.
The general consultant commenced work in February 2014 and the Metro Rail Act was approved by Parliament in January 2015.