Padma Bridge Rail Route: Plan to operate electric trains
Installing the facilities now to run electric trains between Dhaka and Jashore via the Padma bridge might cost the government up to Tk 4,454 crore, a study said.
Once completed, it could be the first line for electric trains in the country.
Following a directive of project authorities, China Rail Link Group, the contractor for Padma Bridge Rail Link Project (PBRLP), carried out the study and submitted its report recently, saying that electrification of the lines was feasible.
The Chinese contractor advised installing the facilities while the rail link construction is ongoing and recommended a decision be made soon to avoid additional cost and safety risks. The government has not decided when it will install the electrification facilities, now or later.
The project authorities on Saturday organised a technical workshop, presided over by Bangladesh Railway (BR) Director General Md Shamsuzzaman, to discuss the report. Officials of railways ministry, BR, project officials, consultants and experts took part in the workshop held at a city hotel.
The contractor in the report said, "Electrification of a railway can increase transport capacity, improve economic benefits and give full play to railway potentials, conserve energy, protect the environment … ."
"Therefore, electrification is the trend of railway development," it added.
Currently, BR operates diesel trains and it would need to buy electric locomotives for the line.
BR engineers said the introduction of electric trains would reduce operation and maintenance costs and it would be environment friendly.
The cost of an electric locomotive is much less than a diesel one while operational cost of electric trains would be less. BR has to pay a huge amount for diesel, a BR engineer said.
Besides, a diesel engine has around 40,000 parts, including a lot of moving ones. An electric motor has fewer moving parts thus maintenance cost would be less, the engineer said, wishing not be named.
BR DG Md Shamsuzzaman said they would introduce electric trains gradually.
"This project [PBRLP] will have provision for electronic traction but we are yet to decide whether it [electric traction] would be introduced now or later," he told The Daily Star yesterday.
Asked when they would decide on the matter, he declined to comment.
He, however, said the contractor's proposal could change.
BR is implementing the PBRLP to connect the capital and Jashore with a 169km rail line via the under-construction Padma bridge. The project cost is Tk 39,246 crore and Exim Bank of China is providing Tk 21,036.70 crore in loans.
The physical work of the fast-track project began on July 3, 2018, and is scheduled to be completed in June 2024. Some 28 percent of the work has been done, as of October.
In December last year, the BR told China Rail Link Group that the government intends to run electric trains on the Dhaka-Padma bridge-Jashore line and the contractor carried out the study, railways sources said.
As per the original design of the project, trains could run between Dhaka and Bhanga junction at highest 120kmph and between Bhanga junction and Rupdia in Jashore at 160kmph.
The estimated cost for electrification at these speeds would be $424.31 million, around Tk 3,578 crore, the report says.
If the design was changed so that trains could run at 160kmph on the entire line, the estimate costs would be $525.33 million, which is around Tk 4,454 crore, read the report.
"Through the study, it can be concluded that the electrification upgrading of the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project is feasible," read the report.
The contractor suggested that the project authority "make a decision as soon as possible to plan the one-time electrification transformation of the whole line.
Finishing the project at the same time is preferred for reduced interference to the operation of the existing line and safety risks, it added.
In a separate letter sent to the project authorities, the contractor said the electrification upgrading work on the project will affect the current design and site construction.
It suggested that BR should confirm their proposal as soon as possible to avoid delays in construction and abandoning of completed work.
A participant of Saturday's workshop said experts present there found the report "incomplete" and asked the contractor to add some more data before a final decision is made.
In 2016, BR had moved for a feasibility study for installing a system to power electric trains on the Narayanganj-Dhaka-Chattogram corridor. But the project proposal never saw the light of day.
However, while inaugurating Benapole Express in July last year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the government has a plan to introduce electric and high-speed trains to make railway services better and faster.