Jamuna rail bridge likely to see hike in cost

Hasibul Aman

17 February, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Merely three years after its launch, Jamuna rail bridge project is going to see a big jump mainly in terms of its cost thanks to the construction getting costlier in these years.

Not only that, the construction of a nearly 5km dedicated rail bridge over the mighty River Jamuna will be delayed by two more years, according to a new proposal of the Ministry of Railways.

The ministry has proposed to the Planning Commission primarily to revise the project cost hiking it to Tk168.06 billion from Tk70 billion and also extending the time up to December 2025, sources said.

The project was launched in early December 2016 at a primarily estimated cost of Tk97.34 billion with a December 2023 completion deadline. 

In favour of its cost hike proposal, the Ministry of Railways argued that the cost of tender package I and II for the construction work has gone up in all these years.

Besides, new components like land acquisition, construction of archives on the site, higher expenditure of customs duty and VAT, new taka-US dollar exchange rates, among others, are pushing up the cost as well.

The cost of signaling and telecommunication work under package III is also going up along with the higher bank charges and payment of salaries to project staff for extra two years.

The Railways Ministry has sought Tk3.47 billion for land acquisition, land use and related cost, which were absent in the original project proposal.

But the Planning Commission says the Rail Ministry should try to get exemption from paying to land cost to Bridges Division, the owner of the land and also a state agency.   

The cost of supervision and designing consultancy segment has been proposed to be raised to Tk8.18 billion apart from seeking Tk5.2 million for management support consultancy. Overall, in consultancy segment Tk284.1 million is rising. 

But the commission raised question about the proposed consultancy fees for designing when the detail design of the project is ready.

It also finds no necessity for management support consultancy as the project will have enough foreign and local consultants.

In addition, the implementing agency has proposed for Tk1.22 billion additional money as price and physical contingency for which the commission has sought clarification. Railways officials, however, see the cost hike proposal as an ususal matter because the cost estimation at the implementation stage is getting real although it had been estimated tentatively earlier.

“Although the project cost assessment was made earlier taking into consideration the potential cost, it is now becoming realistic in line with the tender,” argued a Railways Ministry high official. 

“The question of project cost hike cannot arise when a project has not started yet,” he noted.

About the archives construction proposal, he said such arrangements are very common in large projects, which is also evident in case of Bangabandhu Bridge. 

But the economic analysts suggest meticulous examination of any large project expenditure hike proposal. They are against time extension, which they said, is a major source of wastage of money. The government decided to construct a separate rail bridge 300 metres upstream of existing Jamuna bridge as it is not enough for smooth rail communications.

The project’s first feasibility study was done under a technical assistance scheme (TAS) funded by Asian Development Bank (ADB). Later, another feasibility study was done with Japanese funding.

The project’s financing was confirmed during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Japan visit in May 2014.

After the feasibility study conducted by Japan, it was recommended to construct a heavy loaded bridge. As a result, it has been decided to use steel pipe sheet pile foundation and steel girder for the construction.

Of the primarily approved project cost of Tk97.34 billion, Japan was supposed to provide Tk72.24 billion and GoB Tk20.09 billion from the state coffer.  So far, the project witnessed 2.25 percent financial progress with Tk2.19 billion expenditure while the physical progress stood at 8.95 percent, according to project document.