(CNN) — Bangladesh on Wednesday launched its first metro rail service in the capital Dhaka, with officials and commuters hopeful it will help ease traffic in one of the world's most densely populated and congested cities.
The largely Japanese-funded project, known as Line 6, was inaugurated at a ceremony by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina -- who described the new railway as a "milestone," the Dhaka Tribune reported. "Another feather added to the crown of the development of Bangladesh," she said.
She added that there would also be train carriages reserved solely for women and said the Dkaha metro would help reduce traffic jams in the city "significantly".
The line, which stretches over 20 kilometers (about 12 miles), will serve 16 stations and connect the northern zone of Dhaka to government offices and hospitals for now, according to a statement released by the state-run Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DMTCL).
It will eventually expand to cut through the city to the financial district of Motijheel in the south, it added.
Commuters make their way through a traffic jam in Dhaka, Bangladesh on September 13, 2022.
Kazi Salahuddin Razu/NURPHO/AP
Dhaka is Bangladesh's largest city, its car clogged roads and traffic jams a daily source of frustration for its more than 20 million residents.
More than 3,000 people in Bangladesh die in road accidents every year, according to data compiled by the World Health Organization. A horrific accident in 2018 saw two students killed by a speeding bus -- which drew crowds of angry young protesters to the streets.
Experts note that Dhaka's infrastructure has failed to match the scale of its population. The problem is exacerbated by the country's overreliance on cars and -- until now -- lack of organized public transport, they say.
Shawana Chowdhury, an undergraduate student at Bangladesh University, spends hours in buses, rickshaws and cars each day. She said she was looking forward to "transforming her daily commute."
"A lot of my life is technically wasted away in traffic," she told CNN. "This is such an important change for Bangladeshis. Public transport has the power to change our lives."
The new metro line was a beacon of hope for improving the lives of Dhaka's residents, she said.
"Great world cities in Singapore, Japan and France have superb developed public transport systems," she said. "I hope within time, Dhaka will see its own transformation -- less cars and road pollution with the metro becoming the norm."