Few advantages hold back the railway from the Ramu-Gundum railway line

Bangladesh Railway has suspended work on the Ramu-Gundum section of the Dohazari-Cox’s Bazar rail link, as it appears unlikely to reap economic benefits amid the Rohingya crisis.

No economic benefit will come from the Ramu-Gundum railway line because Bangladesh’s relations with Myanmar are not so good.

Project director Md Mofizur Rahman told The Business Standard: “We have set ourselves the goal of completing the railway line of over 100 km. But there are no plans to build the 28.75 km stretch from Ramu to Gundum as part of the project.

Although an official announcement has not yet been made, authorities have backed down on plans to acquire land and build railroads on the route, according to people familiar with the matter.

Railway officials said that once bilateral relations between the two countries improve, construction of the Ramu-Gundum railway line will be completed as part of another project given the importance of international rail connectivity.

In 2018, the government abandoned its plan to build a bridge over the Naf River in the face of opposition from Myanmar.

At the same time, authorities have proposed a two-year extension for the Dohazari-Cox’s Bazar railway project which is expected to be completed by June 2022.

Railway officials said work on the track would be completed by June 2023 and another year would be needed to review the project’s errors.

Bangladesh Railway started implementing the project in June 2010 to connect Cox’s Bazar to the rail network as well as to the Trans-Asian Railway Corridor. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is lending Tk 13,115 crore under the Tk 18,034 crore project.

A recent report from the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) indicated that no plan had been found for the construction of a railway line from Ramu to Gundum because the project authorities did not couldn’t tell if the line would actually be built.

The IMED report, published last September, recommended that the Ministry of Railways take a final decision in this regard. In addition, the Economic Relations Division also suggested discussing it with the ADB, the financing agency of the project.

At the same time, the ministry was requested to inform IMED of its action within one month.

But neither the railway ministry nor Bangladesh Railway took action, IMED and ERD officials said.

Dr Pear Mohammad, ERD’s additional secretary and wing chief (ADB), said the ERD was not aware of the problems with the construction of the Ramu-Gundum railway line.

The railway ministry also did not contact ADB via ERD, he added.

IMED officials said AfDB would take over part of the loan due to the abandonment of construction of the railway line. As a result, it is possible to negotiate with the agency to spend the money on other projects. It is necessary to take a quick decision in this regard.

Project officials said the estimated cost of the Ramu-Gundum railway line was Tk 2,558 crore, of which Tk 1,616 crore would come from the ADB in the form of a loan.

Shamsul Haque, communication expert and teacher at Buet, said: “We can cancel the project for now but in the future we will have to build a railway line on this road because it is part of a network. international rail. . There is no alternative to this route to establish regional connectivity.

Proposal to extend the duration of the project

Although the project was due to be completed in June of next year, a lot of work, including land acquisition, rehabilitation and transfer of power pylons, remains to be done.

The Ministry of Railways has already sent a proposal to the Planning Commission and IMED, asking for an extension of the project.

Emphasizing the rationale for extending the project deadline, the railroads said the 1,365 acres of land acquired for the project could not be returned to the contractor within the allotted time frame. Most of the land was handed over in 2018 and 2019. For this, additional time is needed to complete the project.

The railway said the money went to the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh Ltd, Bangladesh Power Development Board and Palli Bidyut for relocating power towers in the project area about 5 years ago. However, the work to relocate the tower has not yet been completed, which is hampering the work.

According to project officials, Tk 5,980 crore was spent on the Dohazari-Cox’s Bazar railway line project until last October and the physical progress of the project is 64%.

Work in progress

According to the IMED report, the construction of the Dohazari-Cox’s Bazar railway now takes place in two parts.

As part of the Dohazari-Chakaria part, which started in July 2018, 19 railway bridges will be built. But none of the bridges are finished yet. However, only 27 culverts were fully constructed out of 114.

In addition, the construction of a 49 km embankment is underway in this part, while three stations on this axis in Dohazari, Harbang and Chakaria are under construction.

As part of the Chakaria part in Cox’s Bazar, which started in March 2018, the construction of 15 of the 20 bridges has been completed. The rest of the bridges are under construction.

Construction of 85 of the 110 culverts has been completed in this section and 50 km backfill work is underway. Stations will be built in this part. According to the IMED report, three stations are being built on this road in Dulahazra, Islamabad and Cox’s Bazar.

A state-of-the-art 17,345 square meter railway station with eight elevators, parking lots and hotel facilities is also being built at Cox’s Bazar as part of the project. The construction of three underpasses for the movement of elephants has been completed in the Chunti region.

However, IMED officials said no initiative has been taken to build the connection road, which is supposed to be carried out by the Department of Local Government and Engineering (LGED).

They said it takes more than a year to complete the process of a new project in our country. Consequently, it is necessary to take initiatives to build roads connecting the stations. Otherwise, even if the train’s movement with Cox’s Bazar is started, passengers will have to suffer due to the unfinished connecting roads.

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