Dhaka metro rail company misses functioning timeline

Dhaka,  Thu,  21 September 2017
Published : 05 Aug 2017, 23:06:23

Dhaka metro rail company misses functioning timeline

Agencies’ conflict over project execution to blame
Munima Sultana

Full functioning of Dhaka's metro-rail company is likely to get delayed for a move to continue implementation of the mass rapid transit (MRT) project under the ministry concerned.

Sources said this bid defies agreement with the project's Japanese financier and the development-project proposal.

According to project-insiders, full functioning of the Dhaka Mass Transit Company (DMTC) is necessary from now so that the country could attain the capacity to implement, operate and maintain such new kind of train-based mass transit system while working with Japanese consultants and experts.

As the government has already made a move to construct four more MRTs, the company's capacity could help the government reduce dependence on foreign consultants, they observed.

But sources said the Road Transport and Highways Division (RTHD) under the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges (MoRTB) has already moved to continue the MRT project under its project implementation unit (PIU) instead of giving it over to a full-fledged DMTC.

The RTHD already has sent a proposal to the Ministry of Finance for hiring 150 officials and engineers for the Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development (DMRTD) Project while it has an approved organogram for the company.

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the project's lone financier, had recommended full functioning of the DMTC by completing recruitment of its

own skilled and semi-skill hands according to the proposal of institutional development consultants (IDC) by 2016.

Though the consultant recommended an over 2,000-strong staff, the ministry downsized the number to 1,901 which was approved by DMTC last January.

However, sources said the government had agreed to work under the DMTC by signing minutes of discussions with JICA before signing loan agreement on Tk 166 billion worth of fund for the Tk 219.85 billion mass rapid transit (MRT) line-6.

According to DPP, the DMTC is supposed to recruit 13 people in phase 01-02 and 255 in phase 03 and 554 in phase 4 and the rest in the fifth phase which was to be completed in 2016.

DMTC is the maiden company under the road sector although the government has a good number of fully-owned companies under the power sector, which have been functioning since the project was undertaken.

The ministry formed the DMTC on a limited scale by selecting board of directors after getting approval from the cabinet in January 2013. The board has so far made many important decisions including approval for contractors for the depot-site development, selecting contractor, procuring train sets etc.

Under PIU, all these decisions have to be approved by the cabinet committee on government purchases.

Officials who have already earned some expertise by working for the project from the beginning said continuing the MRT-6 under the project would be conflicting with many decisions already taken under DMTC.

Besides, they said, know-how and trainings attained by the PIU staff from MRT-6 project would also be of no use as they would be transferred anytime or after the end of the project.

"It has now only two years to earn our capacity to run the fastest train in the congested city. But PIU would damage it," said one official, preferring not to be quoted by name.

JICA has come forward to introduce the country's first metro rail through conducting necessary studies in 2011. According to JICA recommendation, the government launched in 2012 the MRT-6 project under the Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority which carried out initial work under a special project office.

The Japanese agency, which is now also providing support for conducting feasibility study for two more MRT lines in the city, also recommended utilizing the officials who worked in the MRT-6 project from the beginning and earned some capacity through trainings and visits to different countries having MRTs.

Another official engaged in the DMRTD project since the beginning said MRT now needs full-fledged, dedicated and trained staff to run 100-kilometre-speed-train system in the congested metropolis.

"Any minor error by any staff member in operating, managing and maintaining MRT will be totally damaging and disastrous for entire traffic system in the city," he said to lay importance on getting company functioning from now.

However, a senior official of DMRTD who is engaged in preparing the proposal for PIU told the FE that they had taken a provision of recruiting 44 fresh engineers in the project with the assurance of accommodating them into the company through training.

But another project official from past experience said not a single fresher engineer recruited earlier under the project did stay due to not having any financial or professional benefits under the project.

RTHD Secretary MAN Siddique, however, would not agree with the suggestion for making the company full functioning right now. But, he said, "in the meantime, company's recruitment will be completed".

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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