The distance from Uttara to Motijheel is 20.1km and has 16 stations along the way. Once the train begins operations, there are plans to start BRTC bus service at the Uttara and Agargaon stations for the convenience of the passengers. Then the passengers will easily be able to go to the station and will also be able to avail a bus when they arrive. The Metrorail authorities have reached a preliminary understanding with BRTC in this regard.

Japanese consultant firm Nippon Koei (NKDM) was involved in fixing the fare rate, sources said. Construction costs of Metrorail are not being taken into consideration in determining the fare. The authorities have calculated the fare based on everyday operational costs.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, head of the committee to fix the fare and additional secretary of the road transport ministry, Nilima Akhter, said they are in the final phases of preparing the proposed rates for the fare. The fare is being proposed based on the Metrorail operational costs and public affordability. The costs of the prevailing public transport in Dhaka as well as the Metrorail fare of other countries have also been examined.

Fare from one station to another

According to sources, initially the proposal has been to fix the Metrorail fare at the rate of around Tk 4 per km. Later the fare was determined on the basis of kilometres and stations. The fare for the commute from Uttara to Motijheel is based on per kilometre. This amounts to Tk 90 and that has been proposed.

A passenger will have to pay a minimum fare of Tk 20 and can travel two stations at the most with this fare. From then on, Tk 10 will be added per station. Other than the three stations in Uttara, the distance between each station is 1km or less. That means the fare comes to around Tk 10 per km.

DMTCL sources say, broadly speaking, three large areas of expenditure have been taken into consideration in fixing the fare. These are electricity costs, staff wages and allowances, and maintenance of the coaches and other facilities.

The fare of large buses in the capital presently is Tk 2.15 per km. Minibus fare is Tk 2.05. The lowest fare in large buses is Tk 10 and in minibuses Tk 8. The distance from Azampur in Uttara to Bangladesh Bank in Motijheel via Mohakhali, Farmgate and Shahbagh, is 19.8km. According to government calculations, this fare should be Tk 42 in big buses for this distance, but the transport owners and workers charge much more. The government does not fix the far of air-conditioned buses. The fare on these buses ranges from a minimum Tk 60 up till Tk 100.

In neighbouring India the Metrorail has around 700km of tracks. Its lowest fare is 5 rupees and highest 60 rupees. In Delhi the lowest fare is 10 rupees and highest 60. The lowest fare in Kolkata is 5 rupees and highest 25.

How the fare will be paid

The preliminary plans proposed two types of tickets. One is a permanent card, that is, it can be recharged and used the entire year or an entire month. The card will cost Tk 200 and can be recharged online from Tk 200 up till Tk 10,000.

Cards will be able to be recharged at the machines installed at every Metrorail station too. The passengers will have to punch in their cards at the platform entrance or the door will not open. The card will have to be punched again when leaving the train or else the passenger will not be able to exit.

The other card will be temporary, that is, for every trip. The fare will be paid at the station and a card issued. This toll will be like a smart card. If one travels more than paid, the card will not open the door and the extra fare will have to be paid to the officer on duty.

The Metrorail in various countries is run under private management, but in Bangladesh DMTCL has decided to run this itself. DMTCL will recruit the personnel for the purpose.

DMTCL managing director, MAN Siddique, told Prothom Alo, a seven-member team will propose the fare and DMTCL will provide them with all the facts and figures as required. He said, the final decision will be taken by the prime minister Sheikh Hasina. The objective of the top level in government is to ensure Metrorail fare does not exceed that of other public transport. The fare will be kept within the people's means.

The Metrorail construction project cost was estimated to be around Tk 22,000 crore. But these costs will go up by around Tk 14,000 crore with the extension from Motijheel to Kamalapur, the increase in foreign currency exchange rate, additional land acquisition and certain other factors

How to board the train

There will be lifts, escalators and stairs to get to the station. The second storey of the three-storey station will have the concourse hall where tickets will be sold and will also have the office and other equipment. On the third storey will be the railway line and the platform. Only ticket holders will have access here. There will be a railing by the railway tracks to prevent accidents. The railing and train doors will open simultaneously when the train halts. These will then shut automatically in a specific time.

According to project sources, once launched, the Metrorail will be running from both sides from early morning. Initially the train will depart from the station at 11:00 in the night. It will be able to carry 483,000 passengers daily from the beginning.

The sources said the train will have six coaches, the ones on each end being called trailer cars where the driver will be. Each of these coaches will carry 48 passengers. The coaches in the middle are the motor cars which will accommodate 54 passengers each. In all, a train will carry up to 306 passengers. Each coach will be 9 and a half feet long. Passengers will also be able to stand in this wide space in the middle.

Project progress and expenditure

The Metrorail construction project cost was estimated to be around Tk 22,000 crore. But these costs will go up by around Tk 14,000 crore with the extension from Motijheel to Kamalapur, the increase in foreign currency exchange rate, additional land acquisition and certain other factors. The project term is up till June 2024, but the authorities aim at completion within 2023. The project is being funded by Japan's international aid agency JICA.

Till March, progress on the Metrorail project has been 77.82 per cent. Progress on the physical work from Uttara to Agargaon has been 91.41 per cent and from Agargaon to Motijheel 77 per cent. Meanwhile 12 sets of Metrorail trains have arrived in Bangladesh. The government has announced that on 16 December, the train will begin carrying passengers along the 12 km from Uttara to Agargaon. It is now operating on this route on an experimental basis.

* This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir

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