Nowadays, Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, is perhaps mostly associated with the term – 'traffic congestion'. It has become a megacity with one of the most congested traffic networks. The upcoming Mass Rapid Transit and expressways are expected to solve all the problems like a panacea. But in reality, they will cater to only about 12.5% of the total demand for trips in the city. Moreover, the expressways prioritise private vehicles rather than promoting public transportation or pedestrians. Among motorised vehicles and public transport, buses will still be the most important mode of transportation, while walking will be the other significant mode in the year 2035 (as projected by Revised Strategic Transport Plan (2015-16)).
The Revised Strategic Transport Plan (RSTP) made quite a few proposals including Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Ring Roads, Radial Roads, expressways, transportation hubs, etc. The main recommendations are:
• Five Mass Rapid Transit (MRT)
• Two Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
• Three Ring Roads (Inner, Middle and Outer Ring)
• Eight Radial Roads (Dhaka-Joydebpur, Dhaka-Tongi-Ghorashal, Dhaka-Purbachal-Bhulta, Dhaka-Kanchpur-Meghna Bridge, Dhaka-Signboard-Narayanganj, Dhaka-Jhilmil-Ikuria, Dhaka-Aminbazar-Savar, Dhaka-Ashulia-DEPZ)
• Six Expressways (Dhaka Elevated Expressway, Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway, Dhaka-Chittagong Expressway, Dhaka-Sylhet Expressway, Dhaka-Mawa Expressway, Dhaka-Mymensingh Expressway)
• 21 transportation hubs; the main ones include Dhaka International Airport, Kamalapur Station, Mohakhali bus Terminal, Jatra Bari Bus Terminal, Gabtoli Bus Terminal, Gabtoli Circular Waterway Station, and Shdarghat Boat Terminal.
Mass Rapid Transit and Bus Rapid Transit Projects
MRT 1: The feasibility study has been completed. Detail design started from December, 2018.
MRT 2: Discussion about G2G going on with Japan. Japan's Government nominated SWG/ Marubeni Corporation.
Northern Part: Gazipur to Airport Section
Package 1: (At-grade road widening, lane, station construction etc.)
About 25 percent of the work is done.
Package 2 (Elevated road widening, lane, flyover, bridge and station construction):
Work is at initial stage.
Package 3 (Footpath, drainage and other civil infrastructures):
About 70 percent of the work is done.
Package 4 (Bus Depot construction):
Work is almost complete.
Southern Part: Airport to Jhilmil Project, Keraniganj
Detail design has been completed for the whole route.
Will be constructed in three phases.
1st Phase (Airport to Mohakhali):
Loan agreement with the World bank is under discussion. (May, 2019)
MRT 4: Discussion about constructing with PPP is going on.
Northern Part: Request for Proposal (RFP) is issued for detail design.
Southern Part: Expression of Interest (EoI) issued for detail design.
MRT 6: 1st Phase (Uttara 3rd Phase to Agargaon): about half of the work is completed (May, 2019). The whole project is scheduled to be completed by December, 2019.
2nd Phase (Agargaon to Bangladesh Bank, Motijheel): To be completed by December, 2020.
Total: Almost 25 percent work is completed (May, 2019)
Inauguration: 16th December, 2021
A feasibility study is going on by consultants appointed by the Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) and will be completed by January 2020.
Ring Road Projects
Inner Ring Road: It is also known as the Dhaka Circular Road. The western portion (Abdullahpur-Dhaur-Birulia-Gabtoli-Babubazar-Kadamtoli-Teghoria-Postogola-Fatulla-Chashara-Haziganj-Shimrail-Demra) will be implemented by the RHD. There will be few changes in the Revised Strategic Transport Plan shown alignment due to changes in the plan and new infrastructures.
Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) will construct an embankment on the Eastern Bypass side (25.85 km, Demra-Purbachal Road-Teromukh-Abdullahpur). A project is being implemented. There is also a proposal from the Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) to build an elevated expressway along the median in this section.
Middle Ring Road: The alignment of the middle ring road is Hemayetpur-Kalakandi-3rd Shitalakkhya Bridge-Madanpur-Bhulta (along Dhaka bypass)-Kodda (Gazipur)-Bypile (DEPZ)-Hemayetpur. RHD has signed a contract with China Joint Venture Company to construct the 48km Dhaka bypass (Joydebpur-Debugram-Bhulta-Madanpur) in eastern side by PPP which will be completed in September 2022. The western side of the Middle Ring Road (Hemayetpur-Kalakandi-3rd Shitalakkhya Bridge-Madanpur) is under consideration for construction with G2G on PPP basis with Marubeni Corporation of Japan. Most likely it will be at-grade.
On the other hand, the BBA has completed a feasibility study for an expressway starting from Baliapur (on Dhaka-Aricha Highway) along Nimtoli-Keraniganj-Fatullah-Bandar to Langalband (Dhaka-Chittagong Highway). It is under consideration for building through G2G with Malaysia.
Outer Ring Road: The Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) has taken steps to conduct a feasibility study for the alignment.
Dhaka Airport: Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport will be reconstructed as a multimodal hub. In order to take the project ahead, Bangladesh Railway (BR) has already started talks with Japan for implementing it with G2G on PPP basis.
Kamalapur Station: Bangladesh Railway has been in discussion with Japan for implementing the project in G2G on PPP basis. Kajima Corporation is leading the Japanese team and already preparing a concept plan.
Mohakhali Bus Terminal: The terminal will be reconstructed and reoriented as a part of the BRT Line-3 project.
Gabtoli Bus Terminal: The terminal will be transformed into an integrated transport hub as a part of the MRT Line-5 project.
Unfortunately, the needs of the people are, as usual, ignored while taking up the projects recommended in RSTP. Their lack of political and economic power and thus inability to influence politicians who shape government policies, result in ignoring the implementation of the important components of RSTP which would have mitigated transport problems of the masses. Instead, recent steps and decisions are more or less focused on trying to speed up travel for the motorised elite by constructing numerous grade-separated flyovers, overpasses and interchanges (e.g. Jatrabari-Gulistan flyover, Kuril interchange, Banani overpass etc.) disregarding the needs of pedestrians and public transport users.
In recent developments, modern megacities of the world tend to move towards public transport and walking. It is a blessing for a developing city like Dhaka to already have that desirable modal choice which others are trying so hard to achieve. In order to utilise this to our advantage, we have to properly plan and restructure Dhaka's bus network, operation and service as soon as possible. Also, with such a large number of people preferring to walk, we must provide proper facilities and priority to pedestrians not only on the basis of traffic demand but also from a transport equity perspective. We must realise that Dhaka is in a unique position where only mega projects may not always deliver the expected results, unless we understand the context of the city and provide services to the people.
The author, Dhrubo Alam, is a transport planner for Bus Route Rationalisation and Company-Based Operation of Bus Service in Dhaka Project. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org