Khulna-Darshana Double Rail Track: Half of project period gone for nothing
Two and a half years ago, the government had approved a project to build a double rail line along the existing single track from Khulna to Darshana.
The project, aimed at boosting trade activities with neighbouring countries using the Mongla port, was supposed to be implemented from January 2018 till December 2022 at a cost of Tk 3,506.75 crore, of which India will provide 77 percent as loan.
Around half the project period has elapsed, but the project authorities have not even appointed a consultant yet, let alone starting the physical work.
The authorities now say they have to extend the project's deadline as it will take at least two more years to start the physical work.
This is also likely to escalate the cost of the project.
The finance ministry had already categorised this as a "low priority project", meaning it would not get an allocation from the annual development programme (ADP), except for the salaries and allowances of project officials.
At the steering committee meeting on the project at Rail Bhaban on Sunday, the project authorities sought elevation of the project category to "medium level".
They said only Tk 3.75 lakh had been released against the demand of Tk 3.27 crore this fiscal year and if the funds were not released as per the demand, it would create problems.
The Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved the project on February 27, 2018, aiming to meet the demands of national, regional and international traffic by increasing transportability through Dhaka-Khulna and Khulna-Chilahati corridor of Bangladesh Railway, by removing existing limitations.
The existing Khulna-Darshana section on Dhaka-Khulna corridor is a single broad gauge line. Under the project, the section will be upgraded to a double line through the installation of a 126.25km broad gauge track with a 14.40km loop line.
At present, a 43km new rail line is being set up from Khulna to Mongla port with an Indian soft loan, on completion of which direct rail connectivity with Mongla will be established with neighbouring countries, alongside local routes.
India will provide Tk 2,689.93 crore, out of Tk 3,506.75 crore, under a second line of credit.
The project authorities, in March 2018, issued an Expression of Interest (EOI) notice for appointing a consultant but cancelled it in August that year as only one organisation was shortlisted for work, shows the project documents.
The second attempt was also cancelled as Indian EXIM Bank did not give approval.
The third time the project authorities issued an EOI notice, five organisations were shortlisted.
"It will take at least four more months to complete the appointment of a consultant. It may take more time," Project Director Al Fattah Md Masudur Rahman told The Daily Star on Sunday.
After appointment of a consultant, they will prepare a detailed design, tender documents and complete relevant work, which will take around one year, he said, adding that they will then float a tender to select a contractor for doing the physical work.
"So, we have to extend the deadline of the project. The cost of the project is likely to increase too after the detailed design is prepared," Masudur Rahman, also the chief engineer (West) of Bangladesh Railway, said.