Authorities of the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project (PBRLP) are likely to start installation of rail track on the Mawa-Bhanga section from July in a major development for the fast-track project being implemented by Bangladesh Railway.
They would be ready to install the rail track on the Padma bridge within October this year and it would take up to six months to complete the work, said officials.
However, before starting the work, Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA), which is executing the long-cherished bridge project, has to hand over the bridge to BR's contractor for the work.
But the BBA may take up to February or March to complete their work before handing over the bridge, and in that case, it would be tough for BR to finish their work within June next year, the new deadline to open the bridge for public, said officials.
Meanwhile, Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan yesterday said they are hopeful of starting railway service on the Mawa-Bhanga section, which is a priority section, when the Padma bridge will be opened for public likely in June next year.
The minister and top BR officials, including its Director General Dhirendra Nath Mazumder, and officials of the project and contractor firm, yesterday visited the project site one day after the railway viaduct at the Mawa end was connected with the main Padma bridge after the last span of the viaduct was set up on Monday.
The BR is implementing the project to connect the capital with Jashore with a 169-km rail line over the under-construction Padma bridge at a cost of Tk 39,246 crore.
Although the revised deadline of the total project is 2024, the authorities planned to operate trains on the Mawa-Bhanga section from the first day when the bridge would be opened for public. Currently, Bhanga is connected with railway network.
"Though there is still one year to go, the last railway viaduct at the Mawa end has already been connected with the main Padma bridge," the minister told reporters, who accompanied him during the visit.
"… We are hopeful that we will be able to complete the rest of the work on time -- the first day when the bridge would be opened for the public. We are satisfied with the progress," he added.
He said the 42-km Mawa-Bhanga section has so far witnessed 66 percent progress, while the overall progress of the project is 41.5 percent.
He thanked everyone involved with the project and handed over a certificate of appreciation to the contractor for their work even during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
CAN JUNE 2022 DEADLINE BE MET?
This correspondent found dozens of workers busy at a place where the Mawa Station would be constructed. Some basic structures have already been built there.
At the Mawa end, construction of 2.58km railway viaduct is almost completed, as erection of 66 piers -- out of 67 -- and instalment of 65 out 68 spans have already been done. The remaining part of the work is likely to be finished within July as the project authorities had to change design of two piers following the opposition of the Bangladesh Bridge Authority.
Similarly, 95 percent work of construction of 4km viaduct at the Janjira end was also completed. On this side, the authorities also had to bring changes in design of a pier and the work may be done within November, according to the BR papers shared with journalists.
The contractor has already completed pre-assembling of 7 km of track and produced around 9,500 special sleepers, out of the required 22,000.
PBRLP Project Director Golam Fakhruddin Ahmed Chowdhury said they would begin installation of railway track at the Mawa end from July and at the Janjira end from August.
It may take four to five months to complete the work at the Mawa end and five to six months for the Janjira end.
"We will be ready to install rail track on the Padma bridge within October. Specialised manpower, who would be required for the work, will come within the time," Fakhruddin said.
He added that they already asked BBA when it would be able to hand over the bridge for installation of rail track, but did not get any reply yet.
After completion of installing spans of the bridge last December, contractor of the bridge is now installing railway and road slabs and gas line.
Contacted, Shafiqul Islam, project director (PD) of Padma bride, said they were yet to fix the date for handing over the bridge as work is going on.
Replying to a query, he said, "It may take till February or March next year to complete the installation of gas line. However, we are trying our best to finish the work within January."
PBRLP PD Fakhruddin added that they may get the bridge in January or February. "In that case, it would be tight for us [to meet June 2022 deadline]. However, we will try our best."
Wang Kun, project director for China Railway Group Ltd, also known as CREC, the railway contractor, said the last span to connect the railway viaduct and the main bridge was completed 51 days ahead of the schedule time.
"In June, the work prior to the track-laying of Mawa-Bhanga of PBRLP will be almost completed and track-laying work is about to start. If the goal can be achieved, it means within effective working period of 2.5 years, new rail line is built and opened to traffic," he said in a press statement.
"This will be a historic achievement and is seldom seen all over the world except in China," he added.
"Achieving this goal of Day 1 [when the bridge would be inaugurated] will depend on the progress of construction of stations and signalling work, availability of quick decision-making and effective support from Bangladesh Railway and the consultant to the contractor, and the timely solutions to the issues related to delayed measurement and payment," said Wang Kun.