If the contractor for the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project has any issue, it should talk to the authorities concerned, as this is not something to talk about with the media, said Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan yesterday.
The minister made the comments a day after China Railway Group Ltd, also known as CREC, issued a press statement alleging that it had not been paid for work done in the last seven months and this was slowing down project implementation.
The minister said the project director had informed him that the contractor had not issued any such press release. "We don't know whether anyone is doing something from behind," Sujan told reporters after a programme at the Rail Bhaban.
The PR agency of CREC told The Daily Star on Wednesday that they had received the statement, on CREC official pad, from their client and forwarded it to different news outlets.
The CREC, the contractor for the biggest project of Bangladesh Railway (BR), said the government owes it $400 million and the payment delay rendered it unable to buy sufficient construction materials and pay subcontractors and suppliers timely.
"Project execution is naturally slowing down, and project costs are increasing day by day," CREC, said in the press release circulated through its PR agency.
"The government of Bangladesh has set a target of opening both rail and road on the Padma Bridge on the same day. However, the fund crisis seems to have emerged as an impediment to completing the construction process," read the release.
A contractor issuing such a press release is rare but the CREC had issued another press release via the same PR agency on June 9 last year.
The first track project is being implemented to connect the capital with Jashore with a 169km rail line over the under-construction Padma bridge at a cost of Tk 39,246 crore.
When reporters sought his comments over the press statement, the railways minister said the PD told him that the CREC did not issue the statement.
He, however, said a contractor usually gets payment time to time on the basis of progress made. "If they submit bill, they will get payment. This is a continuous process.
"This is not a matter to tell the media. We, the authority, are there. They should first inform us if they found any deviation or faced any difficulties," he said.
Asked whether they would investigate the matter, the minister did not give a direct answer but claimed that the contractor had denied issuing such press release.
The CREC in the statement had alleged that it was concerned that BR had not asked it to start building 100 carriages to be used on the rail line. It said the carriages would take two years to build and the deadline passed in July 2020.
The minister said the project would end in 2024. There is no problem if the order is given even after six months. He questioned how the carriages would be used before the line is built.