The Bangabandhu Rail Bridge will play an important role in meeting increasing regional and international traffic demand on transport network such as the trans-Asian railway, said Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan on Thursday.
"Bangladesh cannot now fully meet the demand for transportation of goods on internal, regional and international routes owing to some restrictions. The Bangabandhu Railway Bridge will also ensure uninterrupted train movement on the routes as per demand," the minister said at a press briefing in the conference room of the Rail Bhabhan in the capital
Once its construction is completed, the rail bridge will make communication easy and comfortable for people and also contribute to the economic development, particularly in the northern districts, he added.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to inaugurate work on the Bangabandhu Railway Bridge on 29 November, Nurul Islam said.
He hoped that the construction will end in August 2024 although the deadline is December 2025.
The minister said, "The delay in schedules of trains that run between the capital and north-western and southern regions mainly occurs because of the restrictions on load and speed on the existing bridge. With the highest permitted speed of 20kmph, it takes about half an hour for a train to travel from the station on the east side of the bridge to the one on the west."
"The new 4.8km-long bridge will be built on the 300-metre upstream of the Bangabandhu Bridge. The dual-gauge double-track bridge would be the largest dedicated rail bridge in the country," he added.
Earnings of the railways authorities will also increase as the container train activities will start after the construction of the bridge, he said.
"We are trying to increase incomes of railways utilising and developing its land." he said.
Only 38 trains can travel on the Bangabandhu Bridge now. Minimum 88 trains will be able to travel if the Bangabandhu Railway Bridge is built. The trains will run at a speed 100 to 120 kilometres per hour, he added.
Operational skilled will be increased due to development of infrastructure for the management of signalling and interlocking. As a result, the number of train accidents will decrease, the minister said.
Japan's Obayashi Corporation, TOA Corporation, and JFE Holdings will jointly build the eastern side of the bridge at Tk6,801 crore. On the other hand, IHI Corporation and Sumitomo Mitsui Construction Company will construct the western part of the bridge at Tk6,148 crore.
The main components of the project include construction of a 4.8-kilometre dual gauge double track bridge, a 7.6-kilometre double line railway approach embankment, erection of 30.73-kilometre dual gauge railway tracks, construction of 16 railway approach viaducts, minor bridges and culverts, renovation and re-modelling of Bangabandhu Bridge East and Bangabandhu Bridge West stations and yards.
The project also includes construction of railway museum and ancillary infrastructures, and dredging at the approach channel and harbour of the Jamuna River.
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved the bridge project at a cost of Tk9,734 crore in December 2016, and the project was scheduled to be completed by 2023.
But costs of two main work packages saw a rise after the detailed design was made in September 2018. Besides, costs of land acquisition, land lease and building a museum were also included in the project, causing a jump in the total cost.
The project costs have gone up to Tk16,781 crore from Tk9,734 crore. In March 3 this year, the project cost was revised, and its duration extended by two years from 2023.
Of the amount, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) will provide Tk12,149.19 crore while the remaining Tk4,631.76 crore will come from government funds.