Bangladesh opens first metro service to ease Dhaka traffic

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh launched its first subway service in the populous capital on Wednesday, largely funded by Japan, amid enthusiasm that the South Asian nation’s development boom will continue to tap domestic and foreign funds.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the service, accompanied by new Japanese Ambassador Kiminori Iwama and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Chief Representative Ichiguchi Tomohide.

“Today, we add another feather of pride to the crown of the people of Bangladesh. Another feather is added to the crown of Bangladesh’s development,” she said at the inauguration.

Hasina used the ceremony to honor six Japanese railway engineers involved in the project, who were killed in 2016 when Islamic extremists attacked Dhaka cafes. A total of 29 people were killed, including 20 hostages.

In June, Hasina inaugurated a 6.51-kilometer (4.04-mile) bridge across the Padma River, built by China at a cost of about $3.6 billion, paid for domestically. It is one of more than 100 bridges Hasina has opened in recent months.

The opposition has often accused Hasina’s government of being corrupt in implementing big projects, but denies the allegations.

A limited version of the subway service, which launched on Wednesday, is expected to grow to more than 100 stations and six lines criss-crossing the city by 2030.

Part of the First Line connects prime locations around Dhaka with the city centre. It was built at a cost of $2.8 billion, largely funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

When fully operational, the line is expected to carry 60,000 people an hour, according to project documents.

Dhaka is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with more than 20 million people commuting on congested roads. According to a study by the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Dhaka’s economy loses about $3 billion in lost working hours every year due to traffic congestion.

Japanese Ambassador Iwama highlighted the longstanding relationship between Bangladesh and Japan. He also stressed his commitment to deepening relations between the two countries as more and more Japanese investments and funds flow to Bangladesh.

Tomohide, head of JICA, said the metro project is a “shining example” of cooperation between the two countries and will “change the lives of ordinary people in Dhaka”.

Both Japan and China are major development partners of Bangladesh, which aims to be upgraded from a least developed country to a developing country by 2026 and be included in the World Trade Organization list.

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