The Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Railway Bridge on the Jamuna River, which is scheduled to open for service in August 2024 to strengthen connectivity with the northern part of the country, is lagging behind the target.
According to an inspection report by the Planning Commission, the civil work implementation on the eastern part has progressed well, while work on the other part is behind schedule.
The construction was divided into two packages and awarded to two Japanese contractors, and the contracting firm responsible for the western part has now requested a four-month extension.
"The civil work in the western part is expected to be delayed by four months. To prevent further delays, the contractor has been instructed to increase the supply of skilled manpower and the necessary equipment," Project Director Al Fattah Md Masudur Rahman told The Business Standard.
"The contracting company responsible for the civil work in the western part delayed arriving at the site. Furthermore, the machinery they brought with them was not up to standard quality, and they also lacked skilled manpower. Consequently, work on this part has been delayed," he added.
The Planning Commission's inspection report also showed that the construction of only four piers and three span superstructures, out of a total of 23 in the western part, has so far been completed.
On the other hand, all 27 piers in the eastern part have been completed. The work of 26 spans has also been completed, it added.
Parallel to the existing Bangabandhu Bridge, a new railway bridge spanning approximately 4.8 kilometres, equipped with dual gauge and double tracks, is under construction 300 metres upstream.
Funded by the Japanese government, the initial outlay for the project, which commenced in 2016, was Tk9,734 crore. Later, the cost was increased by 72% to Tk16,781 crore.
According to the revised target, rail service on the bridge is scheduled to commence in the middle of next year. As of August, the physical progress had reached 69%.
According to railway sources, the design and drawing of the signalling and telecommunication work have been completed. The physical progress of this segment is 6.82%.
Usually, when a project is delayed due to issues with the implementing agency, the contractor can seek compensation by requesting an increase in the contract price. However, when the delay is caused by the contractor, the implementing agency may not be able to impose a penalty.
The project director explained that, according to the contract, fines can be imposed on a daily basis when the implementation is delayed due to the contracting firm. However, the contractor presents their rationale in this case, and if fines are imposed, they have the opportunity to sue.
"But the government wants to avoid the issue of fines so that the implementation is not delayed due to litigation," added Al Fattah Md Masudur Rahman.
The speed and weight of train movement on the existing bridge have been limited as it is basically a road bridge. Currently, trains can operate at a maximum speed of 20km on this bridge.
In response to this limitation, the government initiated the construction of a railway bridge parallel to the Bangabandhu Bridge.
Once completed, trains will be able to run at a speed of 120km, and they will also be capable of accommodating both freight and passenger trains of any weight.