Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday laid the foundation stone of a 4.8km double-line dual-gauge Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Railway Bridge aimed at boosting rail communication between the capital and Western zones of the Railway.
Once constructed, the dedicated dual-gauge double-track railway bridge over the Jamuna river, which will be built some 300 metres upstream of the Bangabandhu bridge that has a single rail line, would be the largest dedicated rail bridge in the country.
The prime minister laid the foundation stone virtually from her official Gonobhaban residence.
Bangladesh Railway, along with the consultant organisations, Oriental Consultants Global Company Limited and Chodai Company Limited of Japan and Development Design Consultants Limited of Bangladesh in association with ACE Consultants Limited of Bangladesh, has already completed a detailed design of the bridge.
The main bridge will be constructed in two packages. Two separate agreements have already been signed with Obayashi-TOA-JFE, Japan and IHI-SMCC JV, Japan for eastern and western parts of civil works respectively.
A joint venture of Obayashi Corporation, TOA Corporation and JFE would construct the eastern part of the bridge at a cost of Tk 6,801 crore, while another joint venture of the IHI and SMCC will work on the western part which will cost Tk 6,148 crore.
As per the agreements, land was handed over to both contractors in July this year.
The main project operations include the construction of a 4.8km long dual-gauge double-track bridge, construction of a 7.6km long double-line railway approach embankment, erection of 30.73km dual-gauge railway track, construction of 16 railway approach viaducts, minor bridges and culverts, renovation and remodelling of Bangabandhu Bridge East and Bangabandhu Bridge West stations and yards.
The new bridge will be able to run trains at a speed of 120 kmph on broad gauge line and 100 kmph on metre gauge track. With the construction of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Railway Bridge, 88 trains will be able to run.
The project is scheduled to be completed by 2025.
According to Railway sources, it operates 38 trains on a single line from Joydebpur to Ishwardi that connects Dhaka with the western region via the Bangabandhu bridge. Officials said a maximum of 22 trains could travel smoothly on this route a day.
Considering all these factors, the railway authorities have taken the project of constructing the rail bridge and a dual-gauge double line from Joydebpur to Ishwardi.
In December 2016, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved the Tk 9,734 crore project, which was scheduled to be completed within December 2023.
Of the approved cost, Tk 7724.32 crore would come from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) as project assistance and Tk 2009.75 crore from Bangladesh government exchequer.
But costs of two main work packages saw a huge rise after the detailed design was made in September 2018. Besides, costs of land acquisition, land lease and building a museum were also included in the project, causing rise in the total cost.
The project costs have gone up to Tk 16,781 crore. On 3 March, the project cost was revised, and its duration was extended by two years from 2023.
Of the total amount needed for the project, the Bangladesh government will provide Tk 4,631.76 crore and JICA will provide Tk 12,149.19 crore.
While visiting Tokyo on 25-28 May 2014 prime minister Sheikh Hasina requested Japan to fund for the project when she met Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe. Later, prime minister Sheikh Hasina also raised the issue when the Japanese prime minister visited Dhaka on 6 September 2014.