The Financial Express

Metro rail and Dhaka's traffic jams

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By putting in place the metrorail alone it would be incorrect for the authorities to expect that the crisis of Dhaka's chronic traffic jams would be solved, say experts. In fact, they say, the historic city's traffic congestions are increasing as the authorities could not complete the metrorail project in time.

The World Bank estimates show that 32 lakh working hours are lost every day in the capital and another 16 lakh working hours are lost every day in the port city of Chittagong due to traffic congestions. In other words, annual financial loss for one lakh working hours amounts to Tk1,000 crore. Therefore, the two cities lose at least Tk49,000 crore or $5.5 billion, which is 8.5 per cent of the nation's annual budget on account of traffic congestions.

During busy hours, people find it faster to walk up to places of work than going by cars, the speed of which in Dhaka is less than seven kms per hour. A study by BRACUniversity's Institute of Governance and Development shows that the average vehicle speed on the capital's roads has dropped to 6.8 km per hour from 21.2 kms in 2004. If the number of vehicles continues to increase at the current rate the speed of motor vehicles in the capital city would be no more than the walking speed in 2025, predicts the World Bank.

The authorities were unable to complete the metrorail project by December 2020 as was projected. As out of 88 planned metro stations 21 are still under construction, none could say with certainty when all the planned stations will be completed.

The metrorail project was approved by the ECNEC in 2012. For reasons unknown the schedule for the completion of mega and medium projects have already been extended time and again resulting in cost escalations.

Earlier, the authorities failed to put in place the city's much trumpeted circular waterways. People have been hearing about circular trains in the capital but no one knows when these trains would come to the rescue of the city's beleaguered commuters. Modern urban opportunities are just not available in the cities of Bangladesh. There is no action plan to decentralise administration or create the opportunities for the city dwellers to move out from the densely populated downtowns in the country's major cities.

When even in the five post-independence decades the authorities could not solve the problems of the capital city, people don't expect from the government that it would be able to solve the mass transport problems facing Chittagong, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Khulna and Barisal. Officials visit developed countries to learn about their transportation system spending lots of money but the problems have remained where they had been long ago.


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