Railway Projects Under Indian LOC: Dhaka for quick release of funds
Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan yesterday sought India's cooperation for the quick release of funds for the projects which are being implemented under the Indian Line of Credit (LoC), in order to maintain deadlines.
The minister made the request as six railway projects under the Indian LoC fund are running behind the schedule, while several of them already saw a huge cost escalation.
Sujan was speaking at a contract-signing ceremony in relation to an Indian-funded project at Rail Bhaban where Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Vikram K Doraiswami was present as a guest of honour.
The Bangladesh Railway (BR) yesterday signed a contract with an Indian joint venture firm for consultancy services for a project to construct a direct rail line from Sirajganj to Bogura.
Under the Tk 97.56 crore contract, RITES Ltd and Aarvee Associates Architects Engineers and Consultants Pvt Ltd of India will work for updating the project's feasibility study, detailed design, and preparing tender documents.
They will also provide construction supervision services when the physical work of the project will start, expectedly by mid-2023.
Project Director Abu Zafor Miah and Sanjay Agarwal, executive director (regional projects) of RITES signed the contract on behalf of their respective organisations.
The BR is implementing the Tk 5,579.70 crore project to build an 86.51km dual gauge rail line from Bogura to Shaheed M Mansur Ali Station in Sirajganj, which will ultimately shorten the Dhaka-Bogura travel distance by 112 kilometres and time by three hours.
India would provide Tk 3,146.59 crore or 56.39 percent of the total project cost in soft loans.
Under three LoC funds, the BR took 17 projects, out of which nine have already been completed. Six other projects are now being implemented.
The six projects are: construction of the Khulna-Mongla Port rail line; construction of the third and fourth dual gauge lines in the Dhaka-Tongi section and dual gauge double line in Dhaka-Joydebpur section; rehabilitation of the Kulaura-Shahbazpur section; conversion of the meter gauge into a dual gauge line from Parbatipur to the Kaunia section; construction of double line in the Khulna-Darshana section; and construction of dual gauge line from Bogura to Sirajganj.
The physical work of three projects have started and have already witnessed several revisions. But the physical work of three others are yet to start, despite being approved around three years ago.
The Khulna-Mongla Port rail line project taken to construct 64.75-kilometre-long rail line in December 2010 was supposed to be completed within three years of its approval.
But the project's physical work did not kick off even six years after approval. In the meantime, the cost of the project rose to Tk 3,801 crore -- 120 percent higher than the original estimate.
The delays did not end here.
The project authorities sought another Tk 633.4 crore and a one-and-a-half-year extension of the project's last deadline in June this year. As of August, the project witnessed 86. 72 percent progress.
The deadline was extended up to December 2022 while the cost revision proposal is now pending with the Planning Commission, sources said.
The Ecnec had approved the project for building the third and fourth dual gauge railway tracks on the Dhaka-Tongi route and doubling the dual gauge track on the Tongi-Joydevpur route in November 2012. The cost of the project was Tk 849 crore and the deadline was June 2015.
After several revisions, the cost rose to Tk 1,106 crore and deadline was set to June 2023. But the project witnessed only 51.40 percent progress till August this year.
The project for the rehabilitation of the Kulaura-Shahbazpur section, taken up in 2011, went through similar processes. It witnessed 24.40 percent progress till August, even though the revised deadline is December next year.
The project for Parbatipur-Kaunia section was taken up in February 2018 while the Khulna-Darshana project in May 2018 and the Bogura-Sirajganj project in October 2018.
The physical works of none of these have started yet, although the Bogura-Sirajganj project is well ahead. The project authority hoped to start physical works by mid-2023.
Delay in land acquisition, changes in design, lengthy tendering process due to the requirement of taking concurrence from the Indian side at all phases and complexities over releasing payment are among the reasons behind the delay in project management, BR officials said.
WHAT THE RAIL MINISTER SAYS
At yesterday's programme, Sujan sought India's cooperation for the development of railway's infrastructure and rolling stocks; and to improve the BR's capacity.
He also hoped for the simplification of the payment system for projects, which are being implemented under LoCs, because it causes delay.
"I want to urge India through its High Commissioner present [at the programme] over the matter," the minister said.
"I would request them to consider whether payment can be simplified so that the main projects can be implemented within the deadline while maintaining standard."
In his speech, Vikram Doraiswami said, "Rail is in our common DNA. Indian and Bangladesh have a long history of working on railways and infrastructure of railway [that] we both inherited from the colonial period.
"We believe sincerely and honestly that we are ideally suited to be each other partners for the development of railways in Bangladesh," he said, adding that India will stand by Bangladesh railway for everything, including capacity building and execution of projects.
Railways Ministry Secretary Salim Reza and BR Director General Dhirendra Nath Mazumder also spoke at the programme.