Joydebpur-Ishwardi double line not before 2028
After China abruptly withdrew from its role of financier of the Joydebpur-Ishwardi Double Line Project a couple of years ago, Bangladesh Railway (BR) is now reviving it with Japanese assistance.
However, the deadline set for 2024 will now have to be extended for at least another four years.
The delay will not only increase the project implementation cost, but also deprive the country for at least four more years from getting due benefit from the dedicated Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Railway Bridge over the Jamuna, which is expected to open in early 2025.
The 14,250.61-crore project was taken up in November 2018 to turn the 162-km Joydebpur-Iswardi section into a dual-gauge, double line to meet the growing demands for rail operations.
On the other hand, the dedicated dual-gauge, double-line railway bridge over the Jamuna is being built at a cost of Tk 16,780.95 crore to get the desired benefits of the line, which links the capital with the country's northwestern part.
As the bridge is to open in early 2025, the double-line bridge will be fed by a single line until the second line is built.
BR has now prepared a separate Tk 318.49 crore project for carrying out the preparatory works for the double-line project.
After completion of the legworks, it hopes to start the physical works by the end of 2025, one year after the original deadline of completion, and complete it within 2028-2029, officials said.
Delay in schedules of trains connecting the capital with the north-western and southern regions have been all too common over the last few years, due a lack of capacity of the single line; and speed and weight restrictions on the existing road cum railway Bangabandhu Bridge.
Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan, on many occasions, said the delays cannot be resolved until the construction of the rail bridge and installation of the dual-gauge double line from Joydebpur to Ishwardi.
The government took up a project in January 2016 to construct the 4.8km dedicated double-line rail bridge with a Japanese loan. The construction is going on in full-swing and the project authorities are hopeful about opening it by December 2024 or early 2025.
On the other hand, the Joydebpur-Ishwardi double line project, taken in November 2018, was supposed to be implemented within December 2024 under government-to-government initiative between Bangladesh and China.
The BR even completed negotiations with the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation for the project implementation and the Cabinet Committee on Government Purchase in December 2018 approved a Tk 11,586.68-crore proposal for the work.
But, China in March 2021 declined to finance the project citing "lack of in-depth preliminary work and insufficient feasibility study".
China's decision came four months after the Prime Minister's Office in November 2020, following a decision of the cost review committee, directed BR to slash Tk 1,495.52 crore (12.91 percent) from the project's contract price.
Several BR officials, however, said China's refusal to give the loan might have something to do with geo-politics.
After the refusal from China, the Bangladesh government turned to Japan for the project's funding and the country agreed, BR's Director General Quamrul Ahsan confirmed to The Daily Star.
Following a discussion with an "appraisal mission" of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), BR has prepared a Technical Assistance Project Proposal (TAPP) for reviewing previous feasibility study, prepare detail design for the line and bidding document, BR sources said.
Out of Tk 318.49 crore, Japan is supposed to provide 234 crore and loan agreement is expected to be signed within May, they said. The project is supposed to be completed within June 2025.
The feasibility study for Joydebpur-Ishwardi double-line project was done under a separate project in 2015 and the Chinese company had reviewed it. The company was supposed to prepare a detailed design within their contract price before starting physical works, they said.
But BR now has to hire a consultant to review that study, which is likely to take six months. Then a detailed designing will start, after which they have to revise the project cost, they added.
"We hope to start physical works of the project at the end of 2025 and it may take three to four years -- 2028 to 2029 -- to complete," Quamrul Ahsan told The Daily Star yesterday.
He admitted that the synchronisation between the line and the bridge will not take place right after the completion of the bridge.
Asked, he said the prices of all construction materials have increased in the global market and that may be reflected in the project cost.
"However, it would depend on the detailed design.
"We had nothing to do but go for an alternative financier after China pulled out from the project. So, it is taking time to start," he added.
BR sources said the new line will be set on the north side of the existing line and the project authorities will have to acquire 56 acres of land for this purpose.
While the consultants will draw the detailed design for the entire Joydebpur-Ishwardi line, Japan may provide funds for Joydebpur to Bangabandhu Bridge East Station (around 80km) in the first phase, the added.