Padma Bridge Rail Link : Transforming Bangladesh's Transportation

Ariful Islam Arman

10 October 2023, 11:41 am

Padma Bridge Rail Link : Transforming Bangladesh's Transportation

Welcome to the comprehensive guide on the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project, a transformative initiative set to reshape transportation in Bangladesh. On October 10, 2023, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the 82-kilometre railway track connecting Dhaka to Bhanga upazila in Faridpur, marking a significant milestone in the "Padma Bridge Railway Link Project." The inauguration ceremony is scheduled to take place at Mawa Railway Station in Munshiganj, where PM Sheikh Hasina will arrive by train and deliver a keynote address at 2 PM (BD Time) at Kazi Abu Yusuf Stadium in Bhanga Upazila.

Padma Bridge Rail Link : Transforming Bangladesh's Transportation

History of the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project The Padma Bridge Rail Link Project is a monumental 170-kilometer railway undertaking designed to link Dhaka to the Jashore district, effectively connecting Bangladesh's capital with the South-Western region. Initially proposed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2001, this visionary project received approval for implementation in 2016 and was originally slated for completion by 2021.

Execution of this colossal endeavor has been entrusted to the China Railway Group Limited (CREC), focusing on bolstering capacity-building, elevating safety standards, and modernizing locomotives within Bangladesh's railway system. With an investment exceeding $5 billion from CREC, this project encompasses not only infrastructure development but also the provision of high-quality rails, carriages, and essential equipment, ensuring the railway's efficient operation.

Upon its completion, the Padma Bridge Rail Link will revolutionize connectivity throughout Bengal, offering swift transportation links between major cities while liberating citizens from the inconvenience of long-distance travel through poorly maintained roadways, often prone to traffic congestion and monsoon-related flooding.

Overview of the Project The Padma Bridge Rail Link Project (PBRLP) spans 170 kilometers and encompasses four distinct sections:

  1. Dhaka to Gandaria (3 km)
  2. Gandaria to Mawa (37 km)
  3. Mawa to Bhanga (42 km)
  4. Bhanga Junction to Jessore (87 km)

The project also includes 43.2 kilometers of loop and siding lines, totaling an impressive 215.2 kilometers of track. Additionally, it involves the construction of 66 major bridges, including the remarkable 6.1-kilometer Padma Bridge, 244 minor bridges, one underpass, and 29 level crossings, collectively exceeding 30 kilometers in bridge length and 23.7 kilometers in viaduct length.

The strategically positioned Padma Bridge will serve as a vital link between Mawa and the existing western zone network of the Bangladesh Railway through the Bhanga-Faridpur-Pachuria-Rajbari rail line.

Furthermore, this project encompasses the construction of 14 new station buildings, the renovation of six existing station structures, and the implementation of state-of-the-art computer-based railway relay interlocked signaling and telecommunications systems for 20 stations.

Executing Agency and Project Period The Padma Bridge Rail Link Project is under the purview of Bangladesh Railway, the executing agency entrusted with the responsibility of bringing this ambitious project to fruition. Commencing on January 1, 2016, the project is set to continue until June 30, 2024. Progress made in land acquisition and construction activities across various project routes indicates that the project is well on track for timely completion within the aforementioned timeframe.

Ministry of Railways in Bangladesh, the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project underscores the commitment of this ministry to facilitate the realization of this groundbreaking rail link. Collaborating closely with other stakeholders, including funding sources and contractors, the ministry is dedicated to ensuring seamless planning, construction, and development in alignment with the project's objectives. This visionary project not only promises to enhance the transportation system but also unlocks substantial economic potentials, fostering nationwide socio-economic growth.

Construction and Development Construction of the Padma Bridge Rail Link project commenced in October 2018 and is on track for completion by 2023, with remarkable progress achieved thus far. The project spans 170 kilometers, connecting Dhaka to Jashore, a vital industrial region in southwestern Bangladesh.

Significant milestones were reached in 2020, owing to concerted efforts from local and international funding sources. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) played a pivotal role by providing crucial financing that accelerated the completion of sections like the Joydebpur – Ishwardi line, which commenced operations ahead of schedule.

Currently, a substantial portion of the track-laying activities has been completed, with only select areas, such as mountain pass excavation, remaining. These remaining tasks are estimated to take approximately six months, with the overall project expected to conclude by 2021/2022, contingent on factors like weather conditions and adherence to installation protocols.

Challenges Faced : The construction of the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project has encountered several challenges. The swift-flowing Padma River, particularly during the monsoon season, posed inherent risks to construction activities. Building a bridge of such vast dimensions (6.15 km long, 41 spans) presented significant engineering complexities.

Further complicating matters, the project spanned nearly eight years from initiation to construction, necessitating meticulous planning and execution to preserve its status as an iconic symbol of Bangladeshi history and culture.

The government of Bangladesh had to allocate substantial funding for this multi-million dollar megaproject, reflecting its scale and ambition. Despite these challenges, the project promises to bring about positive economic development in the surrounding areas, enhancing trade connectivity for countries in the Asian region, especially along the Indian Ocean Rim and ASEAN nations like India and Singapore.

Contractors Involved in Padma Bridge Rail Link A consortium of contractors has played a pivotal role in the realization of the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project:

  1. CREC and Subsidiaries: The China Railway Group Limited, along with 12 subsidiary companies, spearheaded the construction efforts for PBRLP.

  2. CRRC Tangshan: In May 2021, CRRC Tangshan, a Chinese rolling stock manufacturer, was contracted by CREC to supply 100 broad-gauge passenger carriages, along with their spares and associated services.

  3. China Major Bridge Engineering: A subsidiary of CREC, this company was responsible for the construction of the Padma multi-purpose bridge.

  4. AECOM: A U.S.-based professional and engineering services firm, AECOM provided the initial design for the Padma bridge, later certified and finalized by Flint & Neill UK (now COWI).

  5. Ringtech: As a subcontractor under CREC, Ringtech was tasked with completing the remaining bridges, culverts, and underpasses in 2020.

  6. Corps of Engineers of the Bangladesh Army: Appointed as the construction supervision consultant for the project in January 2017, this organization played a crucial role in overseeing project execution.

  7. SMEC and ACE Consultants: These entities were contracted by the Corps of Engineers of the Bangladesh Army in July 2017 to provide construction supervision consultancy services for the Padma Bridge rail link project.

  8. DORP: Operating as an implementing non-governmental organization (NGO), DORP managed resettlement activities under the supervision of the Construction Supervision Consultant (CSC Cell), Corps of Engineers, Bangladesh Army.

  9. Bashundhara Cement: A subsidiary of the Bashundhara Group, Bashundhara Cement secured a contract in May 2019 to supply 700,000 metric tons of cement for the project's construction.

  10. Strategi Consulting: This firm provided construction supervision services, including property acquisition, resettlement plans, clearing rights, utility relocation, contractor review, technical support, and safety assurance.

  11. SIMEX: A Bangladeshi construction company, SIMEX completed the construction of a 3,000 square-meter steel pile drive for the project in just 30 days, utilizing sheet piles and H/I beams.

  12. Other Contractors: Additional contractors involved in the project encompass Hifab International (a construction engineering company), SSF International (a project management company), Sinorock (a rock bolt manufacturer), and Garden Centre (a landscape company).

Carriages and Bridge Design The carriages for the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project are meticulously designed and manufactured in China by CRRC Tangshan Co Ltd. These carriages feature innovative technology, boasting air-conditioning systems, advanced lighting systems, video surveillance cameras, real-time monitoring devices, and an emergency alarm system seamlessly integrated into their design to ensure passenger safety.

The suspension bridge deck of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge has been ingeniously designed to accommodate both rail (track) and road traffic concurrently, ensuring optimal transportation efficiency for all vehicle types as required. Moreover, specialized track switches along the route enable trains to change tracks while crossing bridges or entering platforms, further enhancing operational efficiency without incurring additional costs.

Financing and Contractors Understanding the funding and contractor dynamics is pivotal to appreciating the magnitude of the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project:

Funding Sources The Padma Bridge Rail Link Project is one of the most significant infrastructure undertakings in Bangladesh, with funding primarily sourced from the Government of Bangladesh. Remarkably, 85% of the project's funding originates from China, with Bangladesh contributing the remaining 15%.

The estimated project cost stands at a substantial $3.9 billion, funded entirely through the issuance of government bonds and other sources, eliminating the need for external loans or grants. This underscores the commitment of both China and Bangladesh to fully finance critical projects of national importance, prioritizing infrastructural development.

Companies Involved in the Construction Chinese construction companies have played a pivotal role in the Padma Bridge Rail Link project. The China Railway Group and China Major Bridge Engineering Co have been key players in the construction and upgrading of Bangladesh's bridge infrastructure. These companies, with their extensive experience, have previously undertaken projects such as Karnaphuli Knitwear, Chittagong Bypass, and Power Plant Bridges, demonstrating their deep understanding of local conditions and their significant contributions to infrastructure development and connectivity in the region.

Controversies and Rumors Exploring the controversies and speculations surrounding the Padma Bridge Rail Link project provides insights into its current status:

Past Speculation and Challenges The Padma Multipurpose Bridge project, of which the current construction is a component, has faced several controversies and conspiracies since its inception. Initially, the World Bank was a primary lender for the project, subject to its procurement guidelines for providing financial support. However, the World Bank withdrew its support abruptly amid corruption allegations.

This led to a domino effect, with other donors, such as the Asian Development Bank, also withdrawing their funds, causing significant delays in project progress due to resource constraints. False charges against Bangladesh's ruling party were cited by many as the cause for these setbacks.

Despite these hurdles, the project eventually commenced after eight years, with the government's local funding ensuring progress despite strong opposition. The project now stands on the cusp of inauguration, devoid of the uncertainties that characterized the preceding decade.

The Current State of the Project The Padma Bridge Rail Link Project is presently in full swing and progressing well since its initiation in 2016. This transformative project involves the construction of two rail lines, one on each side of the Padma Bridge, with over 360 kilometers of route now completed.

Approximately 75% of the total required track length for both routes has been successfully laid, marking significant progress. Challenges related to land acquisition, schedule adjustments necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and financial constraints faced by Bangladesh Railway in 2019-2020 have been addressed, paving the way for the project to advance.

Funding Details The financing arrangement for the Padma Bridge rail link project is as follows:

  • China covers 85% of the project's total cost, with the Government of Bangladesh contributing the remaining 15%.

  • In April 2018, the Economic Relations Division (ERD) within the Ministry of Finance of the Government of Bangladesh entered into a loan agreement worth $2.67 billion with the China Exim Bank to secure financing for the project.

  • The overall commercial contract value of the project is $3.13 billion. China extends $2.67 billion (equivalent to 85%) as preferential buyer's credit, while the Government of Bangladesh invests $470.81 million (representing 15%) toward project funding.

Benefits of the Padma Bridge Rail Link The completion of the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project promises to bestow immense economic, transportation, and connectivity benefits upon Bangladesh:

Potential Impact on Transportation in the Region and Connectivity The Padma Bridge Rail Link Project is poised to make a monumental impact on transportation and connectivity within the region. The bridge is expected to significantly enhance transport efficiency, reduce travel time, and lower costs for journeys between distant cities.

Furthermore, it will bolster accessibility for commuters, fostering connections between different parts of the country. Industries and businesses are poised to reap the rewards, with increased trade opportunities, improved logistics capabilities, and reduced transport costs translating into positive impacts on their bottom lines.

Moreover, the project is set to revitalize Mongla Port, unlocking further possibilities for exports and imports through enhanced port infrastructure.

Economic Boost The Padma Bridge Rail Link Project is anticipated to exert a substantial positive influence on Bangladesh's economy, both in the southern region and nationally. The link between Dhaka and Khulna, facilitating transit between northeast India and Burma, is expected to drive economic growth by boosting trade.

Studies suggest an annual increase of 2% in GDP for South Bengal upon completion, contributing between 1.3% to 2% to the national GDP growth rate. The project's ripple effect extends to the Mongla Port, offering significant opportunities for exports and imports and providing the apparel industry with enhanced market access and efficient transportation options.

Potential for Tourism The Padma Bridge Rail Link Project stands to enhance tourism in the area, offering tourists from Bangladesh and beyond expanded opportunities for exploration. By facilitating regional connectivity and fluid traffic movement, the project will simplify travel across the country, potentially unlocking new markets for tourist attractions, accommodations, restaurants, and other tourism-related businesses.

Furthermore, the project carries considerable economic benefits, potentially attracting more visitors to the region and enhancing their overall travel experiences.

How the Rail Link Will be Used The Padma Bridge Rail Link will serve as a high-speed transportation service for both passengers and freight traffic, ushering in a new era of mobility in Bangladesh. This extensive rail link project is set to revolutionize transportation by providing easy access across the Padma River, connecting Dhaka with the southwestern regions of the country.

The rail route will connect major towns such as Rajbari, Faridpur, Barisal, Bhola, and Tangail, which are economically significant but were previously hampered by limited transportation options. With this new rail line, commuters can enjoy expedited journeys without the traffic hassles and overcrowding often experienced on the roads, unlocking socioeconomic opportunities for both rural and urban areas along its path.

Benefits for Travelers and the Local Economy The Padma Bridge Rail Link project promises substantial benefits for travelers and the local economy. By bridging Bangladesh's last geographical divide, the project will substantially improve transportation and connectivity within the region, ultimately leading to increased mobility and easier travel between different regions.

Moreover, enhanced accessibility is expected to attract more tourists to the area, bolstering business activity and potentially contributing to reduced poverty levels through increased incomes and economic growth for businesses and individuals alike.

Inauguration and Opening Ceremony The Padma Bridge had its inauguration ceremony on June 25, 2022. A significant milestone was achieved on April 4, 2023, as a trial train successfully traversed the bridge, making its journey from Bhanga to Mawa in Munshiganj.

During the trial, the train completed its journey to Faridpur in precisely two hours and ten minutes. Departing from Kamalapur at 10:07 a.m., it crossed the Padma Bridge at 11:34 a.m. Subsequently, the train arrived at Bhanga station at 12:17 p.m., having traversed ten stations along the route.

Significance for the Country The Padma Bridge Rail Link Project holds profound significance for Bangladesh, promising to bring about vast improvements in transportation and trade. The inauguration of the bridge serves as a symbol of successful infrastructure projects in Bangladesh, highlighting the government's commitment to driving progress through large-scale initiatives.

Spanning 170 kilometers between Dhaka and Jashore, this bridge is set to deliver immediate improvements in travel times and connectivity. Furthermore, its completion underscores the seriousness with which the government approaches public-private collaboration for development projects that spur positive change and drive economic growth through expanded trade access.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's determination to spearhead innovative, large-scale projects across the nation is evident in the project's inauguration ceremony, where she articulated the far-reaching impacts of the project, from improving the lives of thousands of commuters to strengthening international relationships.

Future Projects and Impact The Padma Bridge Rail Link Project is expected to pave the way for future development opportunities, potentially giving rise to additional railway projects in the region:

Potential Long-Term Impact on the Country's Infrastructure and Transportation System The Padma Bridge Rail Link Project is poised to exert a profound, long-term impact on the country's infrastructure and transportation system. The project aims to establish a new 170-kilometer railway link connecting Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, to Jashore.

This endeavor will significantly reduce travel time for both passengers and goods, enhancing connectivity within the region. Moreover, the bridge's durability, designed to last for up to a century with proper maintenance, positions it as an invaluable asset for generations to come.

These improvements in transportation routes will empower travelers who previously faced difficulties traversing Bangladesh and offer businesses enhanced access to clients and potential markets via shorter routes facilitated by the Padma Bridge Rail Link.

In conclusion, the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project is a monumental undertaking that holds immense promise for Bangladesh. With its significant progress, financing, and anticipated benefits, it represents a transformative project that will shape the nation's future by improving transportation, connectivity, and economic opportunities. The project's successful completion is a testament to the commitment of the Bangladeshi government and its international partners to drive progress and development in the region.

Frequently Asked Questions of Padma Bridge Rail Link Project

  1. What is the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project?

    • The Padma Bridge Rail Link Project is a significant infrastructure initiative in Bangladesh aimed at constructing a railway line connecting Dhaka and Jashore while integrating with the Padma Multipurpose Bridge.
  2. When did construction of the Padma Bridge Rail Link start?

    • Construction of the Padma Bridge Rail Link commenced in 2016.
  3. What is the total length of the Padma Bridge Rail Link?

    • The Padma Bridge Rail Link has a total length of approximately 170 kilometers.
  4. How is the Padma Bridge Rail Link funded?

    • The project is primarily funded by China, which covers 85% of the total cost, with the Government of Bangladesh contributing the remaining 15%.
  5. What are the benefits of the Padma Bridge Rail Link for transportation?

    • The project promises to significantly improve transport efficiency, reduce travel times, and lower costs for journeys between Dhaka and Jashore while fostering connectivity within Bangladesh.
  6. What economic impact is expected from the Padma Bridge Rail Link?

    • The project is anticipated to boost Bangladesh's economy by increasing trade opportunities, GDP growth, and revitalizing the Mongla Port.
  7. How will the Padma Bridge Rail Link benefit tourism?

    • The improved connectivity and accessibility facilitated by the project are expected to enhance tourism by simplifying travel across Bangladesh, potentially attracting more visitors.
  8. When was the Padma Bridge officially inaugurated?

    • The Padma Bridge was inaugurated on June 25, 2022.
  9. Has a trial train run been conducted on the Padma Bridge Rail Link?

    • Yes, a trial train successfully traversed the bridge on April 4, 2023, marking a significant milestone for the project.
  10. What is the long-term impact of the Padma Bridge Rail Link on Bangladesh's infrastructure?

    • The project is expected to have a profound and long-term impact by improving transportation routes and connectivity within Bangladesh, benefiting travelers and businesses alike.
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