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Padma Bridge Rail Link : Tk 34,989 crore project gets ECNEC nod

14The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) yesterday endorsed the mega ‘Padma Bridge Rail Link’ project, entailing an estimated cost of Tk. 34,988.86 crore, for establishment of rail communications between the capital and the south-western part of the country through the Padma Multipurpose Bridge (PMB) project. The approval came at the ECNEC meeting for the current fiscal year, held at the NEC conference room at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar in the city, with its chairperson and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair. Briefing reporters after the meeting, planning minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said the ECNEC approved development projects worth Tk. 44,167.14 crore. “Of the total project cost, Tk. 19,265.85 crore will come from the state exchequer, Tk. 152.24 crore from the organisation’s own funds, and Tk. 24,749.05 crore from project assistance,” he added. Of the nine projects that have been approved, eight are new, while one is a revised project.
The planning minister said Bangladesh Railway (BR), under the railway ministry, is scheduled to implement the project by June 2022. Of the total project cost of Tk. 34,988.86 crore, Tk. 10,239.81 crore will come from the state exchequer, while Tk. 24,749.05 crore will come as project assistance from the Chinese government on a G-to-G basis. Mustafa Kamal said there are plans to open the bridge to traffic by December 2018. According to the project summary, the total length of this new track will be 215.22 km, including 3-km double lines on the Dhaka–Gendaria section. Mustafa Kamal said this railway network through the PMB, having a provision for roadways on the upper deck and railways in the lower deck, will connect Jessore and then Khulna, Benapole, and Mongla through Mawa and Bhanga. The rail track will go through seven districts of Dhaka division—Dhaka, Narayanganj, Munshiganj, Shariatpur, Madaripur, Faridpur and Gopalganj—and two districts of Khulna Division—Narail and Jessore. The proposed project will bring four new districts — Munshiganj, Shariatpur, Madaripur and Narail—under the railway network, while improving the standards of passenger services and passengers’ facilities.
The new railway track will go through Motijheel, Sabujbagh, Sutrapur, Demra, Keraniganj, Fatullah, Sirajdikhan, Srinagar, Louhajang and Janzira. Then the track will go through Shibchar, Bhanga of Faridpur, Nagarkanda, Saltha, Moksudpur, and Kashiani of Gopalganj, Lohagara, Narail Sadar, Bagpara and Jessore Sadar.
The minister said the Padma Bridge Rail Link would reduce the distance between Dhaka and Jessore, Dhaka and Khulna, and Dhaka and Darshana by 184.72 km, 212.05 km and 44.24 km respectively, while decreasing the travel time. He said the proposed Dhaka–Mawa–Padma Bridge–Janzira–Bhanga–Jessore rail line is a part of the Railway Master Plan Corridor 7, and this railway route could connect with Kolkata, Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar and the China–Myanmar railway in future. Thus, it could form the Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar railway corridor. In the double-deck Padma Bridge, there will be four-lane roadways on the upper deck while a broad-gauge single railway track would be set up on the lower deck of the bridge, so that a direct rail link could be set up from Jessore, Khulna, Benapole and Mongla. Under the project, some 215.22 km of broad gauge railway track will be constructed, including a 169-km main line, 43.22 km loop and siding, and a 3-km double track. Besides, there will be around 24 km of viaducts, 2 km of ramps, 66 small bridges, 244 culverts, one highway overpass, 29 level crossings, and 40 underpasses. The Padma Bridge Rail Link project has already been included in the list of fast-track projects, while the Bangladesh Army—in association with the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) and the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET)—will be given the Engineering, Procurement, Construction (EPC) agreement for the project. Besides, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) has also been signed between China Railway Group Ltd (CREC) and Bangladesh Railway on January 28, 2015. Asked whether the project was entailing too high a cost, the planning minister explained that the proposed land acquisition would be the main reason for such cost involvement, saying the land cost is much higher in Bangladesh compared to countries like Thailand and Myanmar. The other projects approved at the meeting are: upgrading the Jatrabari intersection to Mawa on Dhaka–Khulna (N-8) to a four-lane highway from an ordinary highway (for Tk. 6,252.29 crore), widening of the road from Ramnagar crossroads to Abalpur in Magura town on national highway (N-7) (for Tk. 91.94 crore), power distribution system development project, Sylhet, (for Tk. 1,890.85 crore), construction of multipurpose cyclone shelters (second phase) in coastal and cyclone-prone areas (for Tk. 533.16 crore), checking and control of animal diseases (for Tk. 77.49 crore), strengthening of Uddyantattik crops research and technology expansion of field crops in char areas (for Tk. 70.56 crore), further infrastructure development of Khulna University (worth Tk. 188.44 crore), and a 1,000-kW medium wave transmitter of Bangladesh Betar (worth Tk. 73.55 crore).