Metro rail project: Commercial hubs at stations to generate more revenue

Construction work of the metro rail project in Dhaka
Prothom Alo file photo

Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DMTCL), the metro rail project implementing authority, will build shopping malls, hotels, entertainment points and commercial centres at the stations of the under-construction metro rail.

As the maintenance cost of the mass transit system is estimated highly expensive similar to the project expenditure, DMTCL is planning to turn every multi-storey station and adjacent areas into income-generating commercial hubs under a transit oriented development (TOD) system.

Currently, the construction of the country’s first metro rail project or mass rapid transit line, shortly MRT line-6, is under construction from Uttara to Motijheel. The government would implement five more MRT lines by 2030.

According to DMTCL, the first TOD hub would be set up at the Uttara Centre Station along the Uttara end of the MRT line-6. DMTCL has already purchased 28.62 acres of land from the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK) with a cost of Tk8.66 billion (866 crore).

RAJUK sold the land at comparatively cheap price as per the government’s direction.

DMTCL’s managing director MAN Siddique told Prothom Alo that the TOD hub would provide metro rail passengers with necessary shopping facilities.

He said that total construction cost of the TOD hubs would be calculated on the basis of the architectural design and the number. The initial investment would come either from the government or foreign lenders.

The former senior secretary of the government added that the idea of TOD hub is familiar in Japan, France, the United States and other countries.

Japanese consultants have motivated the government on building the TOD hubs.

Construction work of metro rail project is underway in Dhaka

Other potential spots for TOD hubs

Dhaka North City Corporation is planning relocation of the Gabtali bus terminal from the present location while the DMTCL has shown interest to set up a TOD hub on the land.

DMTCL officials think that construction of a TOD hub at that place would not need much change in the existing establishments.

They hinted at a possible memorandum of understanding between the DNCC and the DMTCL soon.

According to DMTCL, Gabtali area would turn into a busy spot connecting three MRT lines, one circular road and an intersection of four-lane highways.

The metro rail authority could generate more revenue if there are well-planned shopping malls, hotels, entertainment points, bus terminals and other commercial establishments in Gabtali, officials said.

Three MRT projects– Line-1 (Gabtali to Chittagong road via Dhanmandi and Gulistan), Line-5 north (Hemayetpur to Bhatara via Mirpur and Gulshan), Line-5 south (Gabtali to Dasherkandi via Russel Square and Hatirjheel) would cross the Gabtali area.

DMTCL would set up more than one TOD hubs along the MRT lines.

After completion of the Line-6 project, there is a plan for a quick start of the Line-1 construction.

Line-1 has two components. The first one is an underground railway stretching from the Dhaka (Kamlapur) Railway Station to the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. The second part is an elevated way along the Bashundhara Residential Area to Pitalganj of Purbachal.

Architectural designing of the Line-1 has progressed 75 per cent. DMTCL would also set up a TOD hub at Purbachal.

Sources of the committee that will finalise the metro rail fare said that there is little option to fix the fare at a high rate. It would make the service unpopular to the users. To manage the maintenance cost and project expenditures, the government would need to subsidise the metro rail service for long. In consequences, DMTCL would be burdened with liabilities. To avert the situation by more income generation, DMTCL is planning TOD hubs.

Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology’s civil engineering professor Shamsul Hoque, also a transport expert, said that metro rail is considered as a ‘white elephant’ as its maintenance needs subsidy. That is why the concept of TOD is gaining popularity worldwide.

“But the TOD is not merely MRT-centric. Construction of the commercial hubs should be a part of urban planning,” he said adding that public-private partnership would be effective to manage the TOD construction costs.

*This report appeared in Prothom Alo print and online editions, and has been rewritten in English by Sadiqur Rahman