Bangladesh Railway (BR) is finally set to sign a deal with the Chinese Exim Bank on April 28 to finance the Padma Rail Link project that has been stuck in limbo for almost two years.
Despite the rail link being a priority 'fast track' project, work has barely moved forward since the government signed a deal with a Chinese company to implement the project nearly two years ago, owing to the Chinese Exim Bank, who were committed to invest, delaying the funding.
“Finally we are going to sign a deal with the Chinese Exim Bank for a loan in Beijing on April 28,” Railways Minister Mujibul Hoque told the Dhaka Tribune.
“All the preparatory work has already been completed. After signing the deal, we will get the funds within a very short time and start the project's main works,” he added.
|Tenure of the project
||January 2016 – June 2022
||It will only take about three and half hours to travel to Jashore from Dhaka
BR met with Exim Bank several times over the last three years. They announced at least three times that they were close to signing a deal.
The project originally aimed to lay tracks covering a total of 172km between Dhaka and Jashore by the time of the Padma Bridge's scheduled opening in December this year.
But it is now clear that the rail link will not be opened by that time.
Railway officials said the Padma Rail Link project is being implemented in three phases - Dhaka to Mawa, Jajira to Faridpur and Faridpur to Jashore-Khulna.
BR signed a deal with Chinese Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC), a wing of the China Railway Group, to undertake the project for a cost of Tk27,652cr.
According to the project summary, the total distance covered by this railway track would be 172km. However, there will be around 215.22km of new lines constructed, including the loop lines. The total cost of the project is an estimated Tk34,988 crore. The first phase will connect Dhaka and Faridpur at a distance of 82km.
Currently, land acquisition is ongoing. In the first stage, the government is acquiring land in Dhaka, Narayanganj, Munshiganj, Shariatpur, Madaripur and a part of Faridpur.
“The land acquisition is almost done and we are prepared to start the main construction work after the agreement signing,” Railway Secretary Mofazzel Hossain said.
“When this route becomes operational, people will be able to move easily from Dhaka to Khulna, Jashore and from there to Barisal. The route will also be connected with the Trans-Asian railway,” he added.
As per plan, the entire project will be implemented by 2021. However, a part of the project between Munsiganj's Mawa and Faridpur's Bhanga, about 25km, will start in December to run a token train over the Padma Bridge when it opens.
However, it is unclear how that might be implemented by December 2018. The construction work of the Padma Bridge is about 60% complete.
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council, chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, approved the Padma Rail Link Project on May 3, 2016.