The government is eyeing to keep ready the rail line from Dohazari of Chattogram to Cox's Bazar by June 2023, ensuring a comfortable journey for travellers and giving a big boost to economy in the popular tourism destination of the country.
The completion of the projects will allow travellers from Dhaka to reach Cox’s Bazar in only six hours – four hours quicker than the current fastest road route. According to the project documents, the journey from Kolkata to Cox’s Bazar will take 16 hours.
The project has been endorsed by the South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation Program (SASEC) trade facilitation and transport working group meeting held in Tokyo on November 26, 2015.
China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) is implementing the Lot 2 (Chakaria to Cox’s Bazar) of the project "new dual gauge single railway line from Dohazari to Cox’s Bazar" together with Bangladesh joint venture partner MAX Infrastructure Limited while China Railway Group Ltd (CREC) and Toma Construction JV are implementing Lot-1 (from Dohazari to Chakaria).
From Dohazari, the rail line will reach Cox’s Bazar through seven upazilas -- Chandanaish, Satkania and Lohagara of Chattogram and Chakaria, Cox’s Bazar Sadar, Ramu and Ukhia of Cox’s Bazar.
The main construction works from Chakaria to Cox’s Bazar is to build over 51-km new dual gauge single railway line, including embankment, bridge and culvert, track laying and building stations being implemented by CCECC.
According to the railway and project officials, the Covid-19 pandemic and land issues slowed down the total 102-km project forcing them to seek one-year extension for completion of the construction of the project.
According to the communications experts, the completion of the project will greatly improve connectivity within Bangladesh and between Bangladesh and other South Asian countries, further promoting the economic cooperation between Bangladesh and South Asia.
Officials at Bangladesh Railway said so far the project has a progress of over 62 percent. They have already sought an extension of the deadline till June 2023 for the completion of the project.
Chen Yongyi, Project Manager of Construction of New Dual Gauge Railway Line from Dohazari to Cox's Bazar via Ramu Lot 2, said Lot 2 project commenced on March 1, 2018 and is scheduled to be completed by January 31, 2023.
He said they are facing enormous difficulties during the construction like CCESS to the site, relocation of PGCB, PDB, BREC utilities, tree-cutting permissions in forest areas, ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, additional instructed scope of work level crossings, culverts, underpasses and drainage systems.
"But we are in a strong position and together with the employer Bangladesh Railway and the engineers, we will continue to take various measures to overcome the problems and complete the works safely and to the specified quality in the shortest achievable time," said the Chinese official.
The compensation mode to house and land owners is also a challenge as it shall be paid by various entities, such as DC office, NGO, Bangladesh Railway which complicates and delays the process.
China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) is one of the World’s top 225 International contractors and has over 10 projects currently ongoing in Bangladesh.
To assist the employer with removing the obstructions that have been frustrating the progress on site, they established a bespoke Team of 7 liaison Staff to lobby the Local Community for removing the obstructions during the past three years, said Yongyi.
They have assisted the employer in his endeavours to remove over 1,000 obstructions which there can be no doubt that their efforts have accelerated the progress of the works, he said, adding that they have mobilised over 80 expatriate staff from various countries, including UK, China, India, France and Cambodia.
The majority of these expatriates are from China and currently they have 76 Chinese engineers and management staff. "CCECC looks forward to being provided with the opportunity to contribute more in the future with the development of Bangladesh," said Yongyi.
Responding to a question, he said the project will save almost 50 percent – be it for delivery of goods or passengers’ travel. There will be a direct train from Chattogram to Cox’s Bazar and there will be a train for local travellers which will stop by each station.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Bangladesh signed an agreement for $400 million in loan on May 23, 2019 to help build a dual-gauge railway connecting Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar to promote trade, investment and tourism in Bangladesh.
As one of the pioneering Chinese companies entering the international market, CCECC is now developed into a large-scale state-owned enterprise with Chinese National Super Grade Qualification for railway project engineering, and has been listed among the world’s top 225 International contractors for many years in a row.
CCECC has established resident offices or project management headquarters in 89 countries and regions by the end of 2016, spreading across Asia, Europe, Africa, America and Oceania with its business covering project contracting, civil engineering design & consultancy, industrial park construction, development and operation, real estate development and property management, investment, railway operation, industrial mining, import & export, hotel management and travel services etc.