The government is optimistic about opening the rail line from Mawa to Bhanga section along with road communications through the Padma Bridge with the commissioning of the road-cum-rail bridge.
A mismatch in measurement of entry and exit points of the double-decker Padma Bridge coupled with prolonged rainy season created an uncertainty over the completion of the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project (PBRLP) in time.“Given the current pace of work, we’re hopeful that the opening of the Padma Bridge and the rail line simultaneously is possible,” said Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan.
He was talking to reporters as he paid a visit to the sleeper manufacturing factory of the rail project in Bhanga, Faridpur on Wednesday.
“We’ve set the target to complete the Mawa-Bhanga section aligned with the Padma Bridge’s deadline. CREC (Chinese contractor) has the capacity to do so. It’ll be a great achievement if we can do this,” the minister said, expressing the hope that the work will see a remarkable progress in the dry season stretching over the next six months.
The deadline of the 169-km Dhaka-Jashore Padma Bridge Rail Link Project is 2024, but the government seeks to inaugurate the rail line from Mawa to Bhanga section first to let people to enjoy the full benefit of the bridge.
The current deadline of the Padma Bridge will end in June 2021, but it may be delayed by at leas six months due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and prolonged rainy season that disrupted span installation work for at least four months.
The railways minister shrugged off the allegation of the design faults in the rail link project, saying both the Bridges Division and the Railways Ministry agreed on resolving the measurement problem within a short time. “The project has no design problem. Only the requirement for bridge entry has been revised and we’re bringing necessary adjustment to it.”The measurement issue is being resolved in line with the Bridge Division’s requirement of 15.5 metres in width and 5.7 metres in height, he told journalists in reply to a question.
The solution will require adjustment to already built railway piers and two extra pilings will be required for a pier under construction, he said.
However, this will not extend the project time and increase the project cost, Sujan assured.
The project got a new boost with the setting up of the automated railway sleeper manufacturing factory in Bhanga by China Railway Group Limited (CREC), the contractor of the rail link project.
CREC Project Director Wang Kun informed that the sleeper factory has been set up with latest equipment to lower project cost and speed up the project that will need a total of 3.70 lakh sleepers.
The sleeper factory is part of the sleeper-laying base. On August 22, the sleeper factory started production on a small scale.
The sleeper-laying base is currently employing around 200 local people who have undergone proper professional training by senior Chinese experts of CREC, Wang Kun said.
Construction of the main bridge over the River Padma has so far advanced over 90 percent with the installation of 40 spans out of total 41.
But the rail link project has so far seen an overall progress of 35 percent with Mawa-Bhanga section advancing 55 percent, according to project officials.
Out of the 40-km Mawa-Bhanga section, embankment of 26.98-km line has been complete, while five out of 12 major bridges have been finished and work on another seven is going on. Forty culverts or underpasses out of 69 have been complete, among others.
Of the total project length, 16.7 kms are elevated railway.
The project includes 181 kms of ballasted tracks and 32 kms of ballastless tracks, 63 large, medium and small bridges forming a total length of 30.5 kms, and 230 culverts of different sizes.
The project is a key part of the backbone of the railway network of Bangladesh.
The completion of the project is expected to greatly improve traffic conditions in Bangladesh and foster the economic development.
The new rail link will shorten the current travel distance between the capital and Jashore and Khulna by 308 kms.
It will also reduce the distance from Dhaka to Darshana and Benapole by 168 kms and 318 kms respectively, saving passengers hours in travel time.