Bangladesh is looking to enter the bullet train era as the government has already completed some preliminary works for constructing the Dhaka-Chittagong high speed rail line.
Yesterday, Bangladesh Railway (BR) signed a deal with a consortium of two companies for doing the feasibility study and detailed design for the first-ever high-speed train project.
Once the project is completed, the journey between the capital and the port city will take only two hours, which currently takes more than five hours.
The Tk 102 crore contract was signed between BR and the consortium of China Railway Design Corporation (CRDC) and Mazumder Enterprise (ME) of Bangladesh.
Established in 2003, ME is an integrated consulting, engineering and contracting services firm. The company has been involved with several big projects of the government, but this is its first in the rail sector, CEO Mohammed Jashim Uddin Chowdhury told The Daily Star. ME is working on feasibility studies involving Maddhapara Mine and Barapukuria Coal Mine.
The 18-month project will kick off within 15 to 20 days after the consortium mobilises their manpower, Quamrul Ahsan, director of the project, told The Daily Star after the signing ceremony at Railway Bhaban in Dhaka.
Quamrul signed the deal on behalf of BR while Liu Meichao, business manager, International Business Department of CRDC, represented the consortium.
Railways Secretary Mofazzel Hossain termed it a historic day for the railway sector.
With 320.79km length, Dhaka-Chittagong is the main business corridor of Bangladesh Railway, and at present, the railway route is a circuitous way through Tongi-Bhairab Bazar-Brahmanbaria-Comilla-Chittagong, the project documents show.
But the shorter route, which would be Dhaka-Comilla/Laksham-Chittagong, will cut short the length by about 91km, making the total length around 230km, Railways Minister Mazibul Hoque said. The expected speed would be above 200kmph and it would take from one and a half to two hours to reach Chittagong from Dhaka, he added.
He hoped that the government would find the financier for the project, as it did with China financing the Padma rail link project.
Bangladesh Railway Director General Amzad Hossain said the double-track rail line between Dhaka and Chittagong alone is not sufficient to address the growing demands. The high-speed rail track will resolve the issue, he added.
Talking about the economic importance of Dhaka-Chittagong route, he said initially they have decided to run freight trains on the route at night.
Under the contract, the consortium's responsibilities will include identifying alternative alignments, assessing the viability of the project, preparing detailed engineering design, and cost estimation. It will also work on environmental impact assessment and land acquisition.