Ctg-Cox’s Bazar Rail Link: Meeting target major challenge
While the construction work of a rail line from Chattogram to Cox's Bazar is going on at speed to bring the tourist town under railway network, Bangladesh Railway has also started the preparatory work for operating railway services on the new route.
Around 12km rail track, out of 100.8km, has already been installed and the project saw 64 percent overall progress till October this year to meet the revised target of opening the line to the public by December next year.
Project insiders said meeting the target would be very challenging and if not completed by December next year, they hope it would be done by June 2023.
This correspondent recently saw the workers were busy setting up rail track and constructing stations in the Cox's Bazar part.
Besides, the railways authorities have started preparation for creating 1,289 posts for train operation on the route and already prepared a project proposal for procuring 54 passenger carriages for operating tourist trains on Dhaka-Chattogram-Cox's Bazar route.
"There are some challenges, but those are not that big. We are trying hard to meet the December 2022 target," Project Director Mofizur Rahman told The Daily Star on Wednesday.
The 18,034.47-crore project is one of the government's eight fast-track projects to bring Cox's Bazar under railway network, and establish connections with Trans-Asian Railway corridor. Asian Development Bank is funding the project.
In 2010, the government decided to lay a 128km metre-gauge rail track to link Chattogram with Cox's Bazar at a cost of Tk 1,852.35 crore.
But a massive change was brought in decision in 2014 to go for a dual-gauge track for better connectivity, raising the cost tenfold to Tk 18,034.47 crore.
The authorities then made more changes as they shelved plans of the first phase to construct the track up to Gundum, near the Myanmar border, from Ramu.
After the project's first revision in April 2016, its completion deadline was set in June 2022. But physical work of rail track from Dohazari of Chattogram to Ramu started in March 2018.
12KM TRACK INSTALLED
Under the project, an iconic station is being built at Chander Para near Cox's Bazar town. Apart from a six-storey station, 17 other buildings would be constructed there on 29 acres of land spending Tk 215 crore.
"We are terming it an iconic station because the Oyster-shaped station would represent the tourism aspect of Cox's Bazar," said Mohammad Salim, the project's deputy director.
While visiting Panirchhara area under Ramu upazila, this correspondent found railway track has already been installed there.
Anwar Hossain, manager (track construction) of Max Infrastructure Ltd, one of the project contractors, said rail track has been set up on 12km line from Eidgah to Joarianala area.
Besides, 10km embankment is ready for setting up the track, he said.
Although the current deadline of the project is June next year, Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan, while visiting the project site in September this year, said the rail line would be opened by December next year.
But project documents, however, tell a different story.
The project authorities, citing different problems, wrote to the BR early this year requesting an extension of the deadline to June 2024 without raising the project cost.
The BR then forwarded the proposal to the railways ministry on August 23 and the proposal is now pending with the planning ministry.
Project Director Mofizur said many of the electric poles have not been removed from the project site by the authorities concerned. However, they hoped the rest would be removed by this month.
Apart from this, the acquisition of about 2km land has not been completed yet, obstructing the work, he said.
The project authorities have already proposed creating 1,289 posts for operating trains on the route, and the railways ministry held a meeting over the issue last month.
The posts include those of loco-master, their assistant, station manager and other staffers.
"Creating new posts is a long process. So, we have started the process to complete it before the line gets ready for operation," said a railway ministry official.
Moreover, BR has prepared a Preliminary Development Project Proposal (PDPP) for procuring 54 metre-gauge passenger carriages for operating tourist train on Dhaka-Cox's Bazar route.
As per the PDPP, the project cost would be $57.28 million and the deadline July 2022 to June 2025.
The proposal is now pending with the Planning Commission, which would send it to the Economic Relations Division for searching fund, said a BR source.