The government plans on opening the Mawa-Bhanga portion of the rail route connecting Dhaka to Jashore through the Padma Bridge on the very day of the bridge's inauguration.
Bangladesh Railway is on track to achieve this target, said Railways Minister Md Nurul Islam Sujan on Wednesday during a visit to the site arranged by the China Railway Group Limited (CREC) – the contractor of Padma Bridge Rail Link Project.
"Work on the project has gained momentum with the start of the dry season. The CREC has assured us of completing the project within the stipulated time frame," the minister added.
Nurul Islam formally inaugurated a sleeper factory during the visit.
He told the media that the work on the Padma Bridge Rail Link project is proceeding as per the plan.
Even though the rail link project will be complete by 2024, the Bhanga-Mawa portion of it will be opened with the main bridge if everything goes uninterrupted, he said.
Meanwhile, John Zhong, director of marketing unit of the CREC, told The Business Standard that more than 25% work on the rail link has already been completed.
Mentioning that work is going on in full swing, he also said that the launching of rail transport on the first day of the opening of the main bridge is possible.
Railway Minister Sujan said complexities regarding the height in the Mawa side of the project have been resolved. He also praised the CREC for achieving progress amid the pandemic.
In the Padma Rail Link project, the rail route starts from the existing Dhaka station, goes through Mawa, Padma Bridge and Bhanga, and ends in Jashore with a total length of 168.8 kilometres.
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) in May 2016 approved the project project involving an estimated cost of Tk34,988.86 crore, setting the project completion deadline in June 2022.
Due to slow progress in the first three years, the Ecnec extended the tenure of the project by two years to June 2024, raising the project by Tk4,258 crore to Tk39,247 crore.
The Export-Import Bank of China will provide Tk21,036.69 crore to implement the project, while the Bangladesh government will bear the remaining Tk18,210.11 crore cost from its own resources.
A sum of Tk13,261.2 crore has been disbursed as of September this year, which is about 33.19% of the project cost, while the project has made 26.23% physical progress.
90% work of Padma Bridge complete
The construction work on the 6.15-km Padma Multipurpose Bridge involving a cost of Tk30,193.39 crore has made 81.5% overall progress, while 90% work of the main part of bridge is already complete.
The government wants to inaugurate the bridge by December 2021, although the project completion deadline will end in June next year.
Thirty-nine out of a total of 41 spans of the bridge have been installed, while 1,848 railway slabs and 1,238 road slabs have been set on the two-storey bridge.
Works on service area-2 and the approach road on the Jajira side of the bridge have finished. River training work has progressed 74.50%.
Factory to produce 3.70 lakh sleepers
The factory set up beside Bhanga Railway station will produce 3.70 lakh sleepers to be used in the Padma Rail Link project.
The railways minister formally inaugurated the factory on Wednesday and appreciated the CREC for its state-of-the-art technology.
Li Jiming, Chinese ambassador to Bangladesh, wrote a letter of congratulations to the CREC on the occasion.
Wang Kun, project director of the CREC, said the factory has been built to decrease the uncertainty in international procurement, ensure availability of high-quality sleepers, maintain fast pace in manufacturing and supplying sleepers, reduce construction costs, and import advanced and mature manufacturing technology from China.
He also said the sleeper-laying base is currently employing around 200 local people who have undergone proper professional training by senior Chinese experts working with the CREC.
The factory started production on a small scale in August this year and has been functioning well, he continued.
"The factory adopts a fully enclosed steel structure and automatic assembly line with an average daily capacity of more than 500 sleepers. It is also the largest sleeper factory with the most advanced equipment, standardisation and automation in Bangladesh."
He also said the CREC is able to carry out the construction on the rail link project on a full scale taking effective preventive measures against the pandemic.