Friday, 7 October, 2022

Khulna-Mongla rail link project drags on

Both the cost and time of the Khulna-Mongla rail line project, one of the key infrastructure schemes being implemented under the Indian Line of Credit (LoC), are set to shoot up again.

The project designed to establish a direct rail link with the country’s second seaport will see revision for the second time in line with Planning Commission’s recommendations.

After the revision gets approval from the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC), the cost will jump by nearly 2.5 times to Tk 42.61 billion from the originally estimated cost of Tk 17.21 billion. The project timeframe is being extended by 1.5 years to December 2022, Planning Commission sources said. 

The project was first approved in late December 2010 with an expectation to complete it by 2013. The Railway ministry first extended the deadline by one year to June 2014 without increasing the cost.

In the first revision, the project cost was increased to Tk 38.02 billion and the project deadline is up to June 2018.

Later, the project also saw two deadline extensions to June 30 this year without any cost hike. But still the project could not be completed. 

Of the proposed revised cost of Tk 42.61 billion, the share of Indian credit will be Tk 29.48 billion and the rest will be borne from the state coffer.

Backing the proposed cost hike, the railway ministry has said a rise in construction cost and higher expenditure on signalling and telecommunications systems have pushed up the cost.

Cost of consultancy and supervision is also going up while land acquisition, CD VAT and transport cost is going down. 

Because of the time extension, salaries and other related expenditures will also soar. The second revision has become necessary for an increase in consultant’s income tax and VAT, and the inclusion of new components. 

About the project delay, the implementing agency said an increase in the piling length of bridges, including Rupsha Bridge, increasing formation level of bridge approach roads, removal of soft soil, and increasing the height of buildings and platforms have taken more time.

Currently, a lion’s share of the country’s export and import is carried out through Chattogram port, creating a huge rush and congestion in the country’s largest seaport.

The Khulna-Mongla rail line project was undertaken to ease the burden on Chattogram port as well as ensuring a balanced development in the country. Rail connectivity also became essential to carry bulk and container cargo from Mongla port.

Under the scheme, a 64.75km broad gauge rail line will be established from Khulna to Mongla to directly connect the Mongla port with the existing railway network. At the same time, it will also help in regional rail connectivity and trade.

Once the rail line comes into operation, import and export will rise through Mongla port and carrying imported fuel oil through rail wagons to other parts of the country will be much easier, according to the railway ministry.

It will also help improve tourism with the world’s largest mangrove forest Sundarbans with ensuring a smooth and safe rail journey.

“The 64.75km broad gauge rail link will help connect Mongla port with the existing railway network while contributing a lot to the country’s economic development with establishing a regional rail connectivity,” Member of Physical Infrastructure Division of Planning Commission Mamun-al-Rashid said.