The government plans to open a portion of the rail route connecting Dhaka to Jashore through the Padma bridge by June 2021 as the problems in the rail project’s design have been resolved.
“We hope the 42-kilometer section of the rail line from Mawa to Bhanga will be opened at the time of the bridge’s inauguration in June 2021,” Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan said yesterday.
He was briefing reporters at the capital’s Rail Bhaban on his recent visits to China and India.
On August 29, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said the Padma Bridge project saw an overall progress of 73 percent, and the bridge would be open to traffic by June 2021.
Sujan yesterday said the construction of the 172-km rail line began in July 2018 and is scheduled to be completed by December 2024. And they are now working on a priority basis to open the Mawa-Bhanga section by June 2021.
Bhanga has already been connected with the rail network, and people will be able to go to different parts of the country using the new route,he mentioned.
According to Bangladesh Railway’s (BR) monthly progress report, the Tk 39,246.79 crore project witnessed 17.15 percent physical progress till last month.
In the last fiscal year, the BR had to return a huge amount of money to the state exchequer as the project authorities could not utilise the allocation mainly because of problems in the rail project’s design, said sources.
Replying to a query at the briefing, Project Director Golam Fakhruddin Ahmed Chowdhury said there were some problems in the design of piles of viaducts on both sides of the Padma.
“We have been able to solve those problems… Work is now going on in full swing,” he added.
LOCOMOTIVES FROM INDIA
Sujan said India would provide Bangladesh with 20 locomotives free of charge, and an announcement in this regard is expected to come during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s India visit in the first week of next month.
With most of the BR locomotives already running beyond their economic life, the government initially considered hiring locomotives from India for the first time to help the railway overcome the crisis.
India decided to give Bangladesh 20 locomotives -- 10 broad gauge and 10 meter gauge -- free of charge as a gesture of friendship, Sujan said.
He mentioned that they have already taken up projects to purchase locomotives, but those will start arriving late next year.
BR Director General Md Shamsuzzaman said the railway has 263 locomotives, of which 68 percent are running beyond their economic life.
The 20 locomotives to be brought from India would help ease the ongoing crisis, he said, adding that those would be used for two to three years.
2ND BANGABANDHU BRIDGE
Sujan hoped the physical work of the second Bangabandhu Bridge over the Jamuna river would start in January next year.
The government plans to build the 4.8-km bridge at a cost of Tk 9,734 crore by 2023.
Construction of a rail bridge over the Jamuna has become essential as the Bangabandhu Multipurpose Bridge has various limitations such as restrictions on speed, said BR officials.
Sujan said the demand for more trains has gone up drastically but it’s not possible now to add more than one or two on the western routes.
“More trains will result in more delay in train schedules,” he said.
The minister also said the problemsregarding train schedules on western routes cannot be resolved until the construction of the second Bangabandhu Bridge and the dual-gauge double line from Joydevpur to Ishwardi.
The government plans to introduce electric trains on some new routes as part of its efforts to modernise the popular mode of transport, the railways minister said.
“Our rail system is a conventional one. We will go for modernisation, and it’s not possible without electric traction,” he said.
The PM already gave directives to put in place necessary infrastructure so that trains can be run using electricity on some under-construction rail tracks including those from Dhaka to Jashore, Chattogram’s Dohazari to Cox’s Bazar and Khulna to Mongla, added the minister.
BHANGA-PAIRA RAIL LINE
Railways Secretary Mofazzel Hossain said 75 percent work of the feasibility study for Bhanga-Paira rail line has already been completed.
Sujan said they hope to start physical work of the rail line at the beginning of 2021.
The rail link project will boost economic activities as it will link the capital with Paira Deep Sea Port via the Padma Bridge, according to officials.
Senior officials of the railways ministry and the BR were present at yesterday’s briefing.