The government approved a proposal to extend the deadline for the much-talked-about Padma bridge project to June 23, 2022.
The planning ministry on Tuesday approved the proposal of Bangladesh Bridge Authority, seeking extension of the deadline because the pandemic slowed down progress.
June 23 is the founding anniversary of the Awami League.
The ministry, however, assured that the project cost will not exceed the current Tk 30,193 crore. The deadline was June this year.
Planning Minister MA Mannan told The Daily Star that he signed the proposal on Tuesday.
The pandemic has delayed the physical work by a year, he said.
"I have seen the video of the work. It [progress] is quite significant. Construction of the railway line up to the bridge is almost done," said the minister, adding that he was hopeful about the timely completion of the project.
"If the pandemic lingers, we will accept it and move on with our work, taking all the precautionary measures."
The ministry officials said the government planned to launch railway communications between Mawa and Bhanga on the day the bridge would be open to traffic.
But, there is scepticism over completing the work of the rail link project by June next year.
The long-cherished Pamda bridge is being constructed with the country's own funds after the World Bank and other international lenders cancelled financing over allegations of irregularities.
The construction started in November, 2014. The 6.15km bridge on the Padma will connect the capital with 21 southwestern districts. It is expected to boost the country's gross domestic product by 1.2 percent.
The two-level steel truss composite bridge will feature a four-lane highway over rail lines.
The deadline of the project has been extended several times. The Bridges Division aimed for opening the bridge to traffic in December last year to mark the golden jubilee of the country's independence.
But the local and global coronavirus restrictions delayed it.
The authorities were able to pick up the pace after the Chinese nationals returned to work in May last year. But strong currents in the Padma started causing problems, said officials involved with the project.
As of November last year, the progress of the main bridge was 91.5 percent, according to finance ministry documents.
The progress of river training was 76 percent in November while construction of the link roads was done, the documents say.
SCEPTICISM OVER RAIL LINK
The installation of the rail lines on the bridge is likely to commence by October this year. It might take up to six months to complete, according to officials of the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project.
However, for the work to start, the Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) must hand over the bridge to the railway contractor.
But it may be February or March before the BBA hands over the bridge. And in that case, it would be tough for the BR to finish their work within June, said officials.
Bangladesh Railway is connecting the capital with Jashore by a 169-km railway via the Padma bridge at a cost of Tk 39,246 crore.
The progress of the construction of the rail lines from the capital to Mawa remains slow.