Padma Bridge Rail Link in Bangladesh promises Kolkata in four hours from Dhaka

DHAKA: The government is going to start the construction work of the Padma rail link project in a month and 23 kilometres of the 215 km railway tracks — from Dhaka to Jessore — would be elevated.

Once the project is over, it will take just four hours to go to Khulna from the capital, Bangladesh Railway Minister Mujibul Haque said at a press conference yesterday.

The implementation of the project, expected in four years, would lead to the economic development of the country and the GDP would increase by 1 percent, he said.

Amjad Hossain, Director General of Bangladesh Railways (BR), said the travel time between Dhaka and Kolkata would also come down significantly.

“The distance between Benapole [in Jessore] and Kolkata is around 70 kilometres. Once the project is implemented, it would not take more than three to four hours to reach Kolkata from Dhaka.”

The project would bring four districts — Munshiganj, Shariatpur, Madaripur and Narail — under the coverage of railway network, says a press release from the BR.

Currently, it takes more than nine hours to make the distance of about 412 kilometres from Dhaka to Khulna. The minister said once the project is over, the distance would be reduced to 213 kilometres.

The railways ministry organised the press conference at the Rail Bhaban after the Economic Relations Division (ERD) signed a $2.67 billion loan agreement for the project with China Exim Bank at Beijing on April 27. China Railway Group Limited is the contractor firm.

Amjad said the project would be the biggest and “most complex” projects of BR.

The 23km elevated tracks would begin in Gandaria and go over the Buriganga, Dhaleswari-1 and Dhaleswari-2 rivers. There would be an elevated railway station in Keraniganj on the outskirts of the capital.

 As many as 66 long bridges and 244 small bridges would also be built. The length of the bridges would be seven to eight kilometres.

The railways minister said the tracks from Mawa in Munshiganj to Bhanga in Faridpur would be ready for use the day vehicles would be plying the Padma Bridge. He did not give any specific deadline.

Padma Bridge Project is scheduled to end by December but project officials say vehicles would not be able to use the bridge before the second half of next year.

DG Amjad said the rail link project would establish direct communication between Dhaka and Mongla Port. On the other hand, the government has a plan to introduce a trans-national rail line from Dhaka to Kolkata through Jessore, Benapole and India’s Petrapole in future.

He said the project would boost the economic activities and industrialisation in the country’s southern-western region.

He also said 100 passenger coaches would be purchased to be run on the tracks.

Bangladesh Army is acting as the supervision consultant of the project requiring acquisition of around 1800 acres of land in Dhaka, Narayanganj, Munshiganj, Shariatpur, Madaripur, Faridpur, Narail, Gopalganj and Jessore districts.

Maj Gen Abu Sayeed Md Masud, chief coordination officer CSC/PBRLP, said they have completed acquisition of about 80 percent of the land. They are ready to hand the land over to the contractor firm soon.

He said the owners of the land were being compensated and rehabilitated properly.

During Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s China visit in 2014, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed for financing the project by China.  During Chinese President’s visit to Bangladesh in 2016, the country committed loans for 27 projects, including the rail link.

ERD Additional Secretary Zahidul Haque said among the 27 projects Padma Rail link is the most significant in terms of loan amount and contribution to the economy.

He said during the Chinese president’s visit, a commitment was made to give loans for the 27 projects under government-to-government arrangements. The loans would be amounting to $22 billion.

He said so far loan agreements of about $ 4 billion for five projects have been signed which is around 20 percent of the total amount.  He hoped that in next three years, agreements for $13 billion to $14 billion will be signed.

He also said the loan agreement for Padma Rail Link project will become effective in a couple of days. The first disbursement will start by mid-June.

The railways minister said a proposal has been sent to the PM and whenever she gives the schedule the foundation stone of Rail Link project will be laid.

The minister also said apart from the Padma rail link, other big projects would be implemented in the railway sector.

He said a bullet train from Dhaka to Chittagong via Comilla and Laksham will be introduced, making it possible to complete the journey in only two hours. Work on the feasibility study and detail design is underway now.

Railways Secretary Mofazzel Hossain and project director Golam Fakhruddin A Chowdhury also spoke at the press conference.