Coronavirus crisis derails Bangladesh metrorail project

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Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited, which is implementing the project, says the construction has continued despite the outbreak by maintaining health safety rules as the services had been scheduled to begin on the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s liberation in 2021.

“It is difficult to say whether we can complete the work within the expected time,” said MAN Siddique, managing director of the government firm.

The time for completion of the project, he added, now completely depends on the COVID-19 pandemic, the end of which is uncertain.

Though the construction has continued, the outbreak has impacted the work as the same number of workers cannot be engaged in work due to health safety measures like physical distancing, Siddique said.

“And the work remains suspended where it is not possible to follow the heath directives,” he said.

Japan has manufactured machinery for metrorail but the shipment was suspended until Jun 15 due to the crisis, according to the managing director of the government firm.

The ships from Japan need to refuel at two places, which can also be an obstacle to the shipment, he said, as physical distancing, lockdowns and other restrictions have continued worldwide to slow the pandemic.

Japan is not allowing travellers from Bangladesh, which may also be a problem, he pointed out.

“Once these things return to normal, work can be completed very fast. We are proceeding keeping the COVID-19 crisis in mind. We will keep trying to meet the deadline.”

According to Dhaka Mass Transit Company data, the project is being implemented under eight packages. Among those, land development for the depot began in Diabari under package No. 1 in October 2016 and was completed towards the beginning of 2018.

Although the progress in other packages went as projected, work under rail coach and depot equipment collection package was at a stalemate.  The progress in this package until May was 24.49 percent.

The coaches’ construction began in April 2019 in Japan. A sample set reached Uttara depot in February.

While one set of coaches ready and waiting to be delivered from Japan, construction of another four sets were already underway. A trial run of the first coach is supposed to be held after it reaches Bangladesh.

The time of completion for MRT-6, stretching 20km from Uttara to Motijheel, was projected to be in December this year. The average progress of this project is currently 44.67 percent after 44.12 percent progress was recorded in March.

The overall progress of the project stood 38.35 percent in November last year and climbed to 40.36 percent in January this year.

It was divided into two portions. The first stretches from Uttara to Agargaon, which was 71.12 percent complete as of May. The other section stretches from Agargaon to Motijheel, which saw a 39.93 percent progress until May.

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