Even the earth filling work in the Akhaura-Agartala dual gauge railway link project area, which falls in Bangladesh, and the construction of culverts there have not been completed as yet though the extended time to complete the project will end in June.
So, it has become uncertain now whether it will be possible to complete the project, which started in July of 2018 to improve the rail connectivity and boost trade between Bangladesh and India, within three months.
The railway link project area stretches from Gangasagar railway station in Brahmanbaria's Akhaura to Nishchintopur border in Agartala of India.
The total length of the Akhaura-Agartala railway is 10 and a half kilometres. Four kilometres of it is in India and the remaining six and a half kilometres is in Bangladesh.
In a recent visit to the project area, it has been seen that neither the work of earth filling nor the construction of any culvert out of the 16 in the area has been completed.
Even the construction of a culvert has not started as yet due to an unresolved issue between the contractor of the project and the Water Development Board.
Bhaskar Bakshi, assistant general manager (Project) of the contractor Texmaco Rail and Engineering Limited and project manager of Akhaura-Agartala Dual Gauge Railway Link (Bangladesh Part), said the Water Development Board told them to build the culvert with a depth of six metres whereas they had built all other culverts with three metres of depth.
In future, the WDB will dig up the canal, over which the culvert will be constructed, and that is why the board wants the six metres depth of the culvert.
"But, it will create a problem for the project as we will have to change the whole design of the culverts for this," said Bhaskar.
However, the discussion between the contractor and the Water Development Board in this regard is going on.
Ranjan Kumar Das, executive engineer (additional) of Brahmanbaria Water Development Board, said, "The invert level of the railway link project's culvert is higher than the level mentioned in our design of digging up the canal project. That is why we have told the contractor to build the culvert following the level of our design. However, we will fix the level after conducting a joint survey on it."
Besides, the construction of a running room, an inspection house, and a customs and immigration building next to the Gangasagar railway station in Brahmanbaria's Akhaura upazila has not finished.
However, the rail track has been built from the Indian side up to the zero line of the Akhaura-Agartala border.
Bhaskar said 60 percent work of the project had been completed.
"So far 85 percent of the work of earth filling has been done. The rest of the work will be completed by 30 April. I hope we will be able to complete the main work by May. We will try to complete the project by June," he said.
The cost of the 18-month project was estimated at more than Tk240.90 crore.
However, the cost of the project would not increase, Bhaskar said.
Md Subaktagin, director of the project, said, "The completion of the project depends on the contractor. They are also under pressure from the Indian government. The project is being implemented with a grant from the Government of India. The Indian government also wants the project to be implemented soon. All the material for the project are coming from India. I spoke to the contractor. They said the construction of the culverts would be completed by April. If they wish, they can complete the work by June."
On 21 May, 2018, an agreement was signed with Texmaco Rail and Engineering Limited, a Delhi-based contractor, for the Bangladesh part of the project.
Although the work of the project was supposed to be completed on 29 January, 2020, the time was extended till 13 May of the year as per the request of the contractor.
The contractor applied for the extension as it could not work due to the monsoon.
Later, the work remained suspended for two months since March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As a result, the project could not be completed in May.
Then the work resumed on 1 June last year.
However, due to the Covid-19, the workers could not come regularly.
So the project was extended till June 2021 for the second time at the request of the contractor.
Earlier, Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan said that the project, which is being implemented mainly with an Indian grant, would be completed in March this year.