Dhaka is 320 kilometres away from Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar is 100 kilometres away from Chattogram’s Dohajari. Construction of mixed dual gauge rail line is nearing end on Dhaka-Chattogram route. Both meter and broad gauge rail coaches would operate on this route. Mixed dual gauge rail track is being constructed from Dohajari to Cox’s Bazar.

Once installation of rail track is completed on this route, it will be possible to run high-speed train from Dhaka to Cox’s Bazar. However, existing rail track from Chattogram to Dohajari will require a little repairing.

According to the sources of railway ministry, prime minister Sheikh Hasina instructed to purchase new rail coach to operate high speed train on Dhaka-Cox’s Bazar route. After that, project was taken to purchase modern train coach from USA and South Korea. With these coaches, train may run at a speed of over 120km an hour, once the construction of new rail line is completed.

Currently, train run at a maximum speed of 80 kilometres in the country. Trains are not operated at a high-speed because of old engine and fault in rail tracks.

Railway officials said other than the tourism sector, this rail line would also contribute to socio economic development of Cox’s Bazar, especially, transportation of fisheries resources, salt, rubber raw materials, and forest and agriculture products will be easier than before. Fishermen and farmers will be able to transport products from Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar to the rest of the country at a lower cost than before.

Various economic development projects including deep seaport, coal-fired power plant, industrial parks are progressing in Cox’s Bazar’s Maheshkhali. Construction of underwater tunnel is underway in Karnaphuli river to ease and accelerate communication between Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar.

If a rail line is set up, communication of Cox’s Bazar will be easier. And the government also expects local and foreign investment will increase in South Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar.

A senior railway official, on condition of anonymity, told Prothom Alo the project was taken 11 years ago and it was set to be completed much earlier. Had the project been completed on time, it would have been resulted in more benefits and less expenditure too.

How the project is progressing

Records of the railway project show a 128-kilometre railway line construction project was taken from Dohajari to Ramu via Cox’s Bazar and Cox’s Bazar to Myanmar’s Ghundhum in 2010. The cost of 100-kilometre railway line construction from Chattogram to Cox’s Bazar was estimated at Tk 18.52 billion (1,852 crore). The project was revised in 2016 and cost increased to Tk 180.34 billion (18,034 crore). Work on 28-kilometre rail track on Cox’s Bazar-Ghundhum remains halted. Since Myanmar does not agree to the project, the government will implement this part of the project later.

The project deadline was 2013 but the contractor was appointed in 2017 with new deadline being set for June 2022. Now the project deadline has been proposed to extend for another year.

Project director Mofizur Rahman said complexity arouse over acquiring land at the beginning. About 15 kilometres of rail track are crossing through reserved forest area so they had to abide by many rules. Besides, removing of electric poles also took time, thus, work got delayed and progress did not happen as expected. Now there are no such complexities anymore, the rail track will be ready for the movement of train in June next year, he added.

Work of the project is being completed in two parts with China Railway Engineering Cooperation (CREC) and Toma Construction carrying out the first part from Dohajari to Chakaria and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) and Max Infrastructure Limited are doing another part from Chakaria to Cox’s Bazar.

Records of the project director’s office said work on 17 out 20 bridges has been completed and work on culverts nears to end and 12.5-rail track was also installed.

Work on Dohajari-Chakaria part lags behind slightly. Work on three out of 19 bridges was fully completed while the remaining ones progressing.

Nine stations including the iconic station in Cox’s Bazar are being built on this rail line. The next station after the iconic station en route to Chattogram to Cox’s Bazar is Ramu station, followed by Islamabad, Dulahajara, Chakaria, Harbang, Lohagara, Satkania and Dohajari station.

Rail officials said necessary work on earth filling to install railway line has already been completed while 14 kilometres of rail track have been set up in two parts.

A long wait for rail line

Connecting Cox’s Bazar from Chattogram through rail line is century old plan. Though rail line was established 90 years ago, but it stopped at Dohajari. The vision of present Dohajari-Cox’s Bazar dual gauge rail line construction project is to ease the communication with tourist city of Cox’s Bazar in addition to connecting Bangladesh with trans-Asian railway including Myanmar.

Regarding the socioeconomic importance of Dohajari-Cox’s Bazar rail line, economist Moinul Islam told Prothom Alo this rail is to reach China’s Kunming via Myanmar’s Ghundhum.

This rail way track will now reach Cox’s Bazar for now and that would not be bad thing too. There was no rail communication in this part of the country and it will be now and that will be better for Bangladesh in the long run, he added.

*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna

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