Subway project glitches must be addressed

| Updated: November 27, 2021 23:01:10

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In what may look like an unwelcome development, the Dhaka subway project is reportedly going to face the dual control of two state agencies that experts say would adversely affect progress of the mega venture. A lead news story published in the FE reports that the Bangladesh Bridges Authority's (BBA) latest move to take subway construction in the capital under its jurisdiction away from Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DMTCL) may cause not only coordination gap but more than anything, an undesirable clash of interests between the two state bodies at the expense of the project. 

Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DMTCL) was established in June 2013 to operate and maintain including planning, survey, designing, development, construction and financing of MRT System in Dhaka City and adjoining areas. A designated agency for MRT system in the country, DMTCL has been implementing six MRTs to develop more than128 kilometre lines engaging, so far, US$13 billion at the investment stage since 2013. Subway being very much part of the MRT system has no plausible reason to be looked after, albeit controlled, by another agency. Subway and metro rail-both known as Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) -- are train-based mass-transit system and need similar expertise, skills and manpower to plan, construct, operate and maintain. According to experts, as quoted in the aforesaid FE report, having two similar companies to do the same job would create redundancy not only in manpower but this would also be a colossal waste of government funds.

It is not clear what prompted the government to allow the BBA to change its Rules of Business to include subway under its jurisdiction. Although subway is beyond the purview of the BBA, it has been learnt the state body has been conducting a feasibility study on development of subway network since 2019. Seemingly, there is a grey area in the role of the BBA. It is also not clear whether the DMTCL is over-burdened with too many MRTs and the government wants it to part with some.

Instances of multiple agencies involved in one or more activities are not at all rare in the country, and it is the overlapping of activities resulting in fractured responsibilities that often are the reason why many development programmes experience inordinate time and cost over-run. The Dhaka subway, a dream project meant to provide the much sought-after relief to millions of commuters in and around the capital, must be spared of any such inconsiderate move. Given the highly technical nature of the works, it is likely that differences of opinion on any aspect of planning and execution of the project might prove disastrous. It is thus in the national interest that the government should look into the emerging situation and resolve glitches that may pose to threaten successful completion of the subway project.

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