Railway Network: Deal signed at last to connect Cox's Bazar
The project to connect the country's top tourist destination Cox's Bazar with the rail network is finally destined, though delayed, to see light.
Bangladesh Railway yesterday inked a Tk 416.51 crore deal with a joint venture of five companies to supervise the construction work of the rail track, a feasibility study of which was done back in 2001.
And the contracts for setting up the new rail track -- Dohazari of Chittagong to Cox's Bazar (Ramu)-- will be signed tomorrow with two joint venture companies, railway officials said, hoping the project would now gain momentum.
However, the crucial part of the project -- constructing track up to Gundum near Myanmar border to link with the planned Trans Asian Railway (TAR) has been left out in the first-phase of the project.
In the original plan, rail track was supposed to be built from Dohazari to Ramu to Gundum. This is the only missing link of the TAR, a railway network across Europe and Asia.
A railway official said the rail link from Ramu to Gundum would not be installed now in this phase due to fund crunch.
The project director, Mofizur Rahman said two joint ventures comprising local and foreign companies would carry out 108-kilometre rail track construction work.
“After signing the contracts, the companies may take two months' time to start the work,” he told The Daily Star yesterday.
According to the documents, the authority at first decided to construct 128km meter gauge railway track at the cost of Tk 1852.35 crore. But at an Ecnec meeting in September 2014 the decision was changed to build a dual gauge track so that both meter and broad gauge trains can operate.
“The project is again revised including the provision of dual gauge single line track with a vision of seamless connectivity with Trans Asian Railway route,” reads a document.
Earlier, the proposal to construct rail line from Dohazari to Ramu and Ramu to Gundum was approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) in July 2010.
Even Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina laid the foundation of the project in April 2011, kicking off the construction work. But the government failed to make any headway as it could not find any financier, thus delaying the project.
The total cost now rose to Tk 18,034.47 crore; the government will provide Tk 4,919.07 crore while the Asian Development Bank the rest in aid.
Untill February this year, Tk 1,686 crore has already been spent while the government allocated Tk 1,561 crore for the ongoing fiscal year, according to the planning ministry.
The project will be completed in 2022. Officials and experts believe once it is done, railway communication with the city of tourist attraction will facilitate a growth of the tourism sector.
Speaking at the deal signing ceremony yesterday at Railway Bhaban in the capital, Rail Minister Mazibul Hoque said the project was very important for Bangladesh, which was why it had been included in the list of fast-track initiatives.
The five companies Bangladesh Railway signed the deal with are SMEC International Pty Ltd, Australia (lead firm); CANARAIL Consultants Inc, Canada; SYSTRA, France; ACE Consultants Ltd, Bangladesh and sub-consultant STRATEGI Consulting Company Ltd, Bangladesh.
Project director Mofizur and Ahmed Sayed As–Sabah, country manager of SMEC, signed the five-year contract.
Kamal Krishna Bhattacharyya, additional secretary (planning and development) of the railway ministry, and Amzad Hossain, director general of the railway, among others, spoke at the programme.