Bangladesh-Myanmar rail connectivity
Bangladesh has finally taken the decision to get connected to the Trans-Asian railway, one of the most comprehensive networks of rail lines that connect Europe with Asia. The 129 km rail track will span from Dohazari to Gundum near Myanmar border via Cox's Bazaar. The original project was supposed to start in 2010. The delays we have faced in land acquisition and access to funding has meant inordinate delay, with the project cost shooting up from Tk1,852 to Tk18,034 crore. The feasibility study carried out by the Asian Development Bank necessitated changes in the original plan, for instance the move from metre gauge to broad gauge, all contributed to project delay.
Regardless of the hold-up in coming to a decision on this most strategic of connectivity issues, the construction of this rail line will facilitate massive cross border trade between the country with Myanmar and China. The movement of bulk goods from China to Bangladesh and vice versa by rail should shorten lead times significantly and open up new areas of business such as tourism. That we have lost valuable time which has raised the cost of this project manifold is not the question to ponder upon at this stage.
We understand that the railway ministry has been given three years to complete building of the rail line. While we applaud the government to make it a high priority project, we cannot but stress that our rate of implementation on mega projects has not been particularly impressive. And this is one area where all the good intentions of the government go to waste unless we can speed up the rate at which projects get off the ground.