Khulna-Mongla rail line: Not opening this year
When Bangladesh Railway in December 2010 took up the project for constructing Khulna-Mongla new rail line without any feasibility study, its deadline was December 2013.
But its physical work began around six years after approval, driving the project cost up to Tk 4,260.88 crore from Tk 1,721.39 crore. The deadline was extended up to December this year after several revisions.
Visiting the project site early this month, Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan announced that the Khulna-Mongla railway line would be opened by December.
Within two weeks after his visit, the project authorities on August 14 sent a proposal to the BR seeking an extension of the project deadline till July 2024, meaning people's wait for using the rail line will be longer.
The BR will now send the proposal to the railways ministry and later it would be forwarded to the planning ministry, officials said.
According to the proposal, the project authorities would need six months to complete the rest of the work, including installation of the signaling system, and another year for the defect liability and a month for other related jobs after the expiryof the current deadline.
This means the rail line to link the Mongla Sea Port with the country's railway network will not be opened before June next year.
BR Director General Dhirendra Nath Mazumder said, "The project works will not be completed within December and that's why the deadline is going to be extended."
Enquired about the reasons for the extension, he told The Daily Star last night that here were some issues regarding the signaling system. He asked this correspondent to talk to the project director (PD) to get details.
This newspaper could not reach PD Md Arifuzzaman over the phone as he didn't respond to calls and text messages.
This is the second oldest project among the 36 currently being implemented by BR. Most of the projects are now behind schedule, show railway documents.
The Khulna-Mongla rail line project is being implemented with 69.18 percent funding from Indian Lines of Credit (LoC).
In an attempt to reduce dependency on the Chattogram port and increase the capacity of the Mongla port, the government has taken several initiatives. Bringing Mongla port under the railway network is one of them.
Once the 64.75km Khulna-Mongla broad gauge rail line is installed, the port will directly be connected to the capital. It would also boost the regional rail connectivity.
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) had approved the project on December 31, 2010.
Apart from the rail line, the project includes a 21.11km loop line, eight stations, 716-metre Rupsha Bridge, and 31 other bridges.
The overall progress of the project was 95 percent till July, show project documents.
Although the project was approved in December 2010, its physical work could not be started before September 2016 allegedly due to complications concerning various issues, including land acquisition and changes in the design.
Moreover, a significant amount of time was spent on feasibility study and detailed designs, BR sources said.
Visiting the under-construction Rupsha Rail Bridge of the project in January last year, the railways minister apparently expressed discontent over the delay.
"Whatever the problems are, those should be solved and the work has to be completed within this year. For doing this, you [project authorities] have to engage all necessary manpower," he said.
Even after his warning, the project deadline was extended up to December this year.
REASONS BEHIND THE EXTENSION
One of the major reasons behind the time extension is the delay in starting installation of the signaling system, a BR official said wishing anonymity.
He said as a LoC-funded project, the contractor for installing the signaling system was supposed to be from India and the project authorities twice floated the tender accordingly. But in both cases, India companies quoted "unusually high costs", forcing the authorities to change the mode of financing for this particular work.
Later, the project authorities awarded the contract after arranging funds from the Bangladesh government.
The company will get five months to complete the work after it is handed the project site following the signing of the contract, which is yet to be done. It may take the contractor up to March to complete installation of the signaling system, the official added.
Besides, the work on nine vehicular underpasses are going on and it would take some more time to construct approach embankments.
Also, there are some complexities over the clearance of girders and dirt wall of some bridges under the project and it would take some time to solve those problems.