Deadline likely to be extended to June 2023
Much to the dismay of travellers who were looking forward to visiting Cox’s Bazar by train next year, many impediments are yet holding up the rail project, which is a hint that it will not reach completion even by the end of 2022.
Construction work of the single-line dual gauge railway track from Dohazari in Chittagong to Cox’s Bazar has been delayed not only due to the Covid-19 pandemic but also owing to a lack of coordination among the agencies concerned.
Bangladesh Railway (BR) officials told Dhaka Tribune that they were still unable to resolve issues regarding land acquisition, electricity line transfer and import of construction materials from India, Malaysia and China.
BR, the implementing agency of the 102km railway line project, has applied to the Planning Commission for an extension of the project deadline to June 2023.
“We have already put in an application for the deadline to be extended as the pandemic and some other major challenges have been hindering the progress of the project,” said Md Mofizur Rahman, director of the rail project.
The 102km Dohazari-Cox’s Bazar rail link is being implemented under two lots, at a cost of Tk18,035 crore.
China Railway Group Ltd (CREC) and Toma Construction JV are have been assigned Lot-1, from Dohazari to Chakaria (50km), while China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) and Max Group JV are responsible for Lot-2, from Chakaria to Cox’s Bazar (52km).
According to BR, overall progress of the project was 62% till August 31, far below the target.
According to the revised agreements, the contractors are committed to complete their work by January 31, 2023, and BR is scheduled to start operations by June 2023.
CCECC Project Manager Chen Yongyi said “The organization was facing difficulties during construction work due to not getting access to sites as many landowners had yet to receive compensation from the government, slow relocation of the power grid line, issues regarding tree-cutting in forest areas and the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The project had been progressing slowly despite CCECC helping BR resolve some of the issues, he said.
“We are continuing with the construction work even amid the pandemic by adhering to hygiene rules as we want to complete the task within the deadline,” he added.
Project Manager Md Farhad Hossain of Max Infrastructure Ltd said that some construction work needing to be done outside the contract had been causing further delay.
Meanwhile, Md Mofizur Rahman, director of the Dohazari to Cox’s Bazar rail project, said that everyone involved with the project was working sincerely to resolve the issues confronting the project.
“The administration in Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar has all but completed the land acquisition process,” he said.
Work to relocate the power grid line would start soon as well, Mofizur Rahman said.
He attributed the problems regarding import of materials to pandemic-induced closures.
Some five million tourists visit Cox’s Bazar every year. Once completed, the rail link will facilitate their swift travel to the world’s longest sea beach not only from the capital Dhaka, but also from neighbouring Bhutan, India and Nepal through the existing Dhaka-Kolkata rail route. The rail link will also be connected with the under-construction Akhaura-Agartala rail route.
Travellers from Dhaka will be able to reach Cox’s Bazar in only six hours — four hours quicker than the current fastest road route. Meanwhile, the journey from Kolkata will take 16 hours, according to project documents.
The new link will also be part of the Trans-Asian Rail network, connecting Bangladesh with other regional neighbours, including China, Myanmar and Thailand.