The construction of Padma Rail Link Project is accelerating with about 6,000 domestic and foreign workers amid the pandemic. Work in some parts has progressed even at a faster pace than expected.
Mawa portion of the project has been connected to the under-construction Padma Multipurpose Bridge through the placement of the last span of box girder on Tuesday.
The segmental girder erection works of viaduct-2 of the project completed 51 days before the schedule.
Railways Minister Md Nurul Islam Sujan expressed his satisfaction over the progress of the project and reiterated his commitment to launch the rail operation from Mawa to Vanga over the Padma on the first day as the bridge will come into operation.
Director General of Bangladesh Railway D.N Mazumber, Project Director Golam Fakhruddin A. Chowdhury, Chief Coordinator Officer of the international consultant consortium Maj General Zahid, and Wang Kun, project director on behalf of the contractor, China Railway Group Limited (CREC), were present at the Tuesday's event.
The project has made 41.5% progress, while the Mawa-Vanga section achieved 66% progress.
Officials said installation of rail tracks in the Mawa-Vanga section will begin in June 2022.
The railways minister said, "Padma Bridge is the dream project of Bangladesh and it is a matter of pride that the project is self-financed."
A total of 172 km rail line will be constructed under the Padma rail link project and the Vanga-Mawa section is an area of priority, he said.
The government set a target to commence the operation of Padma Bridge by June next year. "We have more than one year in hand which is sufficient to construct the rail line," the railway minister said.
Responding to a query, the contractor's representative Wang Kun said, "As a pioneer, the CREC has been through many hardships, including the one-and-a-half-year delay caused by complications centring land acquisition, design approval, delayed measurement and payment in the initial stage of the project, combined with the Covid-19 crisis and flood in 2020.
"Achieving the goal of Day 1 will depend on the progress of stations' construction and signaling work, quick decision-making and effective support from Bangladesh Railway and the consultants, and a timely solution to delayed measurement and payment issues.
According to CREC officials, the project management office has already implemented policies and taken regular epidemic prevention measures.
The contractor prioritised both epidemic prevention and construction activities to ensure zero infection among its nearly a thousand Chinese staff and established campsites for nearly 5,000 local staff, offering free medical services.
These measures have been taken to create conditions for fighting against the virus, said CREC officials, adding that the full work viaduct-3 will be completed within a few weeks.
The Bangladesh government approved the Tk34,989 crore project in 2016 to build a rail link between Dhaka and Jashore through the under-construction Padma Multipurpose Bridge. Later, the project cost increased to Tk39,246.80 crore.
China Exim Bank is providing Tk21,036.69 crore as loan, while the Bangladesh government is contributing Tk18,210.11 crore.
The project construction is progressing in three sections – Dhaka-Mawa, Mawa-Bhanga and Bhanga-Jashore. Among them, the deadline set for completing the Dhaka-Mawa and Dhaka-Jashore sections is 2023, while the Mawa-Bhanga section is set to be finished by 2022.
In the current fiscal year's Annual Development Programme, the government allocated Tk3,685 crore for the project, but it was increased to Tk5,455 crore to meet the project's demand. An allocation of Tk3,587 crore has been proposed for the project in the next fiscal year.