With the cabinet division having already directed Padma Bridge Rail Link Project (PBRLP) authority to redesign viaducts due to the poor vertical and horizontal clearance, the railways minister, who visited the site along with planning minister yesterday, tried to down play the problem.
Planning Minister MA Mannan and Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan, however, told reporters -- who were invited to the visit -- there that consultants and Buet experts are working to solve the "design-related issue that arose recently."
"It is not the proper time to say that fault [in design] has been detected… It has not been settled yet whether there was fault [in design]," Sujan said.
Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project (PMBP) authorities expressed serious concerns because the designed viaducts for rail use have left too little clearance for tall vehicles that might use the roads underneath.
PMBP officials said construction of viaducts with the existing vertical limit will hamper movement of heavy lorries or loaded vehicles and the existing horizontal limit will shrink the width of the connecting roads of the country's longest bridge.
Amid this situation, cabinet division last week directed PBRLP to redesign the viaducts.
A panel of experts led by Prof Shamim Z Bosunia, chairman of the government's panel of experts on PMBP, has been assigned to solve the design-related problem.
Rail link authorities claimed that the problem regarding vertical clearance actually arose over pier 25(1) and 25(2), and their contractor is redesigning it now. The problem is nothing major, they said.
Sujan yesterday told reporters Bangladesh Railway has been implementing the project while Bangladesh Bridge Authority, which is implementing Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project, has given some conditions.
"Both the projects have consultants and contractors to resolve 'the differences of opinions', and I think there is no big difference of opinion between them," Sujan said.
"As we are concerned over the issue, we decided to visit the site physically," he added.
Meanwhile, Planning Minister said both the projects are very important projects. "We are not agreeing with the word 'error', as error can be found after completion of the works. However, some doubt has surfaced and we know how resolve those," he said.
"If the problem to design appears big, then we, if necessary, will hire consultants from abroad," he said adding, "As the problem arose, we will settle it. We will not move forward with the matter unsettled."
Replying to a question whether there was any lack of coordination between the two projects, he said, "You have the right to raise questions. But there may be human error."
He, however, said the problem would be much graver had it was detected after the completion of the project.
"We have time to correct it. May be the cost and duration [of the project] will rise. I don't know… We will discuss the matter at higher level and there is nothing to hide," he added.
The railways minister said they are hopeful about opening the Mawa-Bhangha section of the rail line when Padma Bridge would be opened for public in December 2021.
Meanwhile, Sujan, at a programme, also distributed cheques among people who were affected by the project. Total Tk 107.41 crore have already been distributed among 3,989 people, out of total 7,705 affected people and process is on to rehabilitate others through non-government organisations.
Railways Ministry Secretary Salim Reza, Bangladesh Railway's Director General Md Shamsuzzaman, project directors and top officials of both projects also accompanied them.
Both PMBP and PBRLP are fast-track projects.
Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) is implementing the much-hyped PMBP at a cost of Tk 30,193 crore to connect the country's southwestern region with the capital via road and rail lines.
On the other hand, Bangladesh Railway is implementing "Padma Bridge Rail Link Project" 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.