Akhaura-Sylhet rail route gets dual gauge

Hasibul Aman

9 April, 2019 12:00 AM printer

The government is going to spend Tk 16,104 crore to upgrade the Akhaura-Sylhet metre gauge rail line into dual gauge line in a bid to ensure smooth movement of railway traffic in the section.

The move comes as part of the government plan for railway gauge unification in Dhaka-Chittagong rail corridor aimed at connecting it with Trans Asian railway.

A project with regard to this will be tabled at ECNEC meeting on Tuesday for approval, Planning Commission sources said.

The project has been proposed to be implemented on G2G basis with the Chinese government’s financial assistance.

China is expected to provide Tk 10,654 crore to the project, while the government has to bear Tk 5,450 crore of the estimated project cost.

In a January 2017 letter, Chinese Embassy in Dhaka confirmed Economic Relations Division (ERD) about $1,756 million China Exim Bank’s credit support to the project.   

Once approved, the scheme is expected to be completed by Bangladesh Railway by June 2025.

“The main objective of this project is to ensure easy, regular, comfortable and safe journey for the northeastern people of the country,” commented a planning commission official.

With the project, Bangladesh Railway seeks to set up Trans Asian railway network in Bangladesh portion with specified load capacity, he added.

It will remove speed and load limitation for carrying containers which will help operate national, regional and international freight and container trains, according to railway officials.

Under the scheme, a total of 239.14km single dual-gauge track, including 176.24km main line and 62.90km loop line, will be constructed.

49 major bridges totaling 5,945km and 237 minor bridges totaling 1,725km will also be constructed.

Besides, signaling system will be improved in 22 stations and 200 acres of land will be acquired for the scheme. 

A non-binding MoU was signed with China Railway Bridge Engineering Bureau Group on 15 September 2015 for the rail line construction.

During British era, a rail line was constructed in Shahbazpur-Kulaura-Akhaura-Chittagong section in 1898, which was later expanded from Kulaura to Sylhet in 1915.

Of the route, Shahbazpur-Kulaura-Akhaura section is a sub-route of Trans Asian Railway network.

Currently, a project is underway under the Indian credit line to revive the Shahbazpur-Kulaura section to reestablish rail connectivity with India.

Besides, projects are running to upgrade Dhaka-Chattogram rail corridor and other sections excluding Akhaura-Sylhet section to duel gauge track. 

Bangladesh Railway took the initiative of upgrading the Akhaura-Sylhet section in line with the recommendation made in a study for unifying rail track in the corridor.