Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would lay the foundation stone of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Railway Bridge over the Jamuna today.
Once built, the dual-gauge double-track bridge would be the largest dedicated rail bridge in the country.
According to rail officials, the bridge would be usable from August 2024 and would enhance the connection between the capital and western region.
Sheikh Hasina attend the event virtually from her official residence the Gono Bhaban whereas Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan would preside over the programme in Sirajganj.
The 4.8km-long bridge will be built some 300 metres upstream of the Bangabandhu Bridge which has a single rail line.
In December 2016, the authorities approved the bridge project at a cost of Tk 9,734 crore and the project was scheduled to be completed within December 2023.
The project cost has gone up to Tk 16,781 crore from Tk 9,734 crore and the current deadline is December 2025.
Japan would provide lion share of the project cost as soft lone.
Costs of two main work packages saw a huge rise after the detailed design was made in September 2018.
Besides, costs of land acquisition, land lease and building a museum were also added to the project, causing a jump in the total cost.
Increased VAT and customs duties were also responsible for the cost escalation, according to documents obtained by The Daily Star.
A joint venture of Obayashi Corporation, TOA Corporation and JFE would construct the eastern part of the bridge while another joint venture of the IHI and SMCC will work on the western part, officials said.
All of these are Japanese companies.
The project has signed deals with the contractors on April 5 and they have formally commenced work on August 10, they said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was supposed to lay the foundation stone of the project in March but it deferred due to Covid-19 pandemic, they added.
BENEFITS OF THE NEW BRIDGE
Most of the delays of scheduled trains between Dhaka and northwestern and southwestern regions mainly occur due to restrictions on load and speed on the Bangabandhu bridge.
With the highest permitted speed of 20kmph, it takes about half an hour for a train to travel from the station on the east side of the bridge to the one on the west, officials said.
Railways Minister on several occasions said the problems could not be solved until the rail bridge and the dual-gauge double lines between Joydebpur and Ishwardi were constructed.
There is a single line from Joydebpur to Ishwardi. The railway operates 42 trains on this 174km stretch that connects Dhaka with the western region via the Bangabandhu bridge.
Officials said a maximum of 22 trains could travel smoothly on this route a day.
Considering all these factors, Bangladesh Railways has taken the project of constructing the rail bridge and a dual-gauge double line from Joydebpur to Ishwardi, they added.
Once built, the running time of the trains operate through the bridge would be reduced, and the operation cost of railway will reduce and income of railway will increase, they said.