12:00 AM, February 07, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 07, 2009

Trans-Asian Railway project finally set to take off

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Pinaki Roy

The government is going to start work on Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) that would connect the country's railway system to a 81,000-km network stretching from Europe to East and South-East Asia.
" The prime minister has already directed me to take initiative in this regard," Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain told The Daily Star.
The minister along with high officials of Bangladesh Railway (BR) is now visiting Chittagong and Cox's Bazar to see the possible route of the TAR to connect Chittagong and Cox's Bazar with Myanmar.
Starting from Turkey, the TAR would link Bangladesh with six countries of East Asia including Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore, and also with Europe through Turkey.
Bangladesh signed the Inter-governmental Agreement on the TAR Network on November 9, 2007.
But Dhaka still needs to sign bilateral agreements to make the network operable, officials said.
BR sources said the country now needs to build 128 km rail track from Dohazari in Chittagong to Teknaf in Cox's Bazar. The railway has to acquire 1,200 acres of land to build the track.
At present, there is railway link up to Dohazari.
"We have to build a metre gauze railway network from Dohazari up to Gundam (Myanmar) through Teknaf," said Nurul Amin, general manager (East) of the BR.
Gundum point will be a railway junction from where a track will extend to Cox's Bazar town to facilitate tourist movement and another towards Chittagong.
The TAR would connect Bangladesh at three points from the Indian state of West Bengal, and have a single exit point at Gundum.The track passes through industrial centres in the north and south-west of the country, and through the capital's outskirts of Joydevpur and into Chittagong.
The first entry point of the TAR is at Gede, India, and it runs through Darshana, Iswardi, Jamuna Bridge, Joydevepur, Akhaura, Chittagong and Dohazari, and Gundam, sources said.
The second entry point of the track is at Singabad, India, and then it passes through Rajshahi, Iswardi, Jamuna Bridge, Joydevpur, Akhaura, Chittagong and Dohazari, and Gundam.
Much of the railway network already exists but some significant gaps in it remain.
Earlier, the government had conducted a feasibility study from 1999 to 2001, which said Bangladesh will be benefited if it goes for the TAR.
On building the new track, Nurul Amin said, "We submitted the proposal to the Planning commission in 2002 with an estimated cost of Tk 1,400 crore."
But the expenses will now increase as the proposal was submitted seven years ago. The government will implement the project with its own resources, sources said.
The then BNP-led alliance government did not consider the proposal submitted in 2002. Then the interim government took an initiative in this regard but it could not do much about it, the sources added.

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