Wait to cross Padma Bridge by train gets longer

The construction of the Dhaka-Bhanga railway tracks will be completed by June, but it will take another two months to complete other tasks like the installation of a signalling system

Zafar AhmedSenior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 25 Jan 2023, 07:32 PM
Updated : 25 Jan 2023, 07:32 PM

During the inauguration of the long-awaited Padma Multipurpose Bridge last year, Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan said that a 169-km-long railway link connecting Dhaka to Jashore via the bridge would be launched by June 2023. 

Now, project officials are saying that it will not be possible to complete the work by June, and the launch will be further delayed. 

According to the officials, passengers will have to wait until next September to cross the Padma River by train. But the train will only travel to Faridpur’s Bhanga. Rail connectivity between Bhanga and Jashore will be launched in December 2024. 

The 6.15 km-long bridge connects 21 administrative districts with Dhaka by road, making travel hassle-free for people in Bangladesh's south and southwest. The single-track railway is situated on the lower deck of the two-storey structure. 

ECNEC approved the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project in March 2016. The government estimated the cost of constructing the railway from Dhaka to Jashore would be Tk 349.89 billion. The project was to be implemented using a loan from China. 

Bangladesh signed a $2.76 billion credit deal with China’s Exim Bank to implement the rail project in 2018. Due to a delay in finalising the loan agreement, work on the project started in July of that year. 

After making reasonable adjustments to the timeline for the work, the project's deadline was extended by two years to December 2024. 

Meanwhile, traffic is full at the bridge, which was opened to the public on Jun 25, 2022. During a recent visit to the project site, Minister Sujan expressed hope of inaugurating the 82 km railway from Dhaka to Bhanga by next June. 

Project officials said that the construction of the railway tracks would be completed by June, but it would take another two months to complete some other tasks.  

According to Project Director Afzal Hossain, 48 percent of the work on the upper part of the railway bridge has been completed. “We hope to complete the rest of the work by next June.” 

The rail link project got delayed due to gas pipeline installation work, which went on for much of 2022, on the ground floor of the bridge. 

"We were able to start laying rail tracks in August of last year. Hopefully, the construction of the railway tracks from Dhaka to Bhanga will be completed by June,” Afzal said. 

"But some other work will still remain incomplete, including the installation of the signalling system. We hope to start the train services by September.” 

The work of laying the railway tracks from Dhaka to Bhanga has been divided into three parts. The 32 km stretch from Shariatpur's Zazira to Bhanga is 87 percent complete, making the most progress among others, Afzal said. Track coaches have also been run experimentally in this section. 

Nearly 80 percent of the work has been completed on the 51 km track from Mawa to Dhaka. This section is also expected to be completed by June. 

The construction of a 90 km railway line from Bhanga to Jashore needs to catch up. The progress in this segment is 62 percent. 

Afzal said that the overall progress of the project is 73 percent.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher