The cost and completion period of the Bangladesh Railway’s Padma Bridge Rail Link Project is to increase mainly for faulty designs, time lapsed over land acquisition, site clearance and utility shifting, said officials.
Only for additional land acquisition, the Chinese contractor of the project already claimed Tk 246 crore, more than 5 per cent of the total project cost which stand at Tk 2,000 crore.
The contractor also wants time extension for delay in land handover with extension of price.
Issues including delay in handover of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge and river training works could increase the cost and extend the time further, officials said.
They also said that at least 22 more variations including raised vertical clearance of seven rivers, underpass clearance, changes in carriage and designs of station buildings, increased platform areas and provision of future electric traction could affect both the cost and completion period of the Bangladesh Railway’s biggest project.
Currently, a panel of experts, including some BUET experts, are working to solve the pile and soft soil treatment design issues and a design review is also ongoing.
Under this fast-track project, 172 kilometres broad-gauge rail line will be constructed at the cost of Tk 39,246.8 crore on Dhaka-Jashore through the Padma Multipurpose Bridge.
The project is being constructed in four sections — Dhaka-Gandaria, Gandaria-Mawa, Mawa-Bhanga and Bhanga-Jashore sections by the China Railway Group Limited.
The development project proforma of the project was approved by the executive committee on the National Economic Council on May 3, 2016 with the cost of Tk 34988.8 crore and timeline of January 1, 2016 to June 30, 2022.
On May 22, 2018 the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council at a meeting increased the project cost by Tk 4257.94 crore or 12 per cent to Tk 39258.13 crore and also extended its completion deadline by two years to 2024.
The Export-Import Bank of China is funding Tk 21,036 crore of the cost while the government of Bangladesh will fund Tk 18,210 crore.
Construction work of the project began in October 2018.
Till September this year the cumulative physical progress of the project is 17.93 per cent and financial progress is 29.86 per cent.
Physical progress of the project in 2019-20 fiscals is only 1 per cent against the target of 15 per cent.
Bangladesh Railway director general Md Shamsuzzaman told New Age on Sunday that the project cost could be hiked for increasing the height of the viaducts for the tracks on the bridge and more land acquisition.
‘The height of the bridge and the embankment has to be increased for navigation clearance,’ he said.
Shamsuzzaman said that currently they were working with earlier design but if the height of the viaduct for railways had to be increased then there was a possibility of cost hike.
‘But we are yet to ascertain how much will be increased,’ he continued.
He also said that additional land acquisition was necessary as the earlier acquisition was not appropriate for which proposal was given to increase the project cost by 5 per cent.
Already they had informed the Planning Commission about the possible 5 per cent increase in the cost for including the extra cost in the Development Project Proforma, the director general said.
The completion period of the project would not be extended more, he added.
Earlier on October 10, a meeting was held on the updated status of the project where some issues were upheld which affected the progress of the project.
At the meeting, a presentation showed that till date 15 trial piles have been constructed and four was found satisfactory.
It showed that geotechnical report values deviated from the design and the project covered 2,245 acres of land.
According to China Railway Group Limited, also known as CREC, some additional land acquisition would be required and following mismatch between acquired land and design alignment 300 acres additional land acquisition is required.
Forty-eight acres of Bangladesh Bridge Authority and 247 acres of Roads and Highways Department would be required for land acquisition, the presentation said.
On August 14 this year a letter was sent to the railways ministry for onward transmission to the Planning Commission for the approval to carry out excess expenditure for additional land acquisition within 5 per cent of total project cost.
CREC is claiming for failure to handover the site in time and obstructions within access to the site as per condition of the contract.
The last notice from CREC, dated on August 28 this year, it is claiming Tk 246.57 crore as indirect cost and Tk 87 lakh as direct cost along with extension of time of 400 days for Mawa-Bhanga section and 317 days for other sections.
Under the project the priority section — 42 km Mawa-Bhanga section — was targeted to be completed by June 2021 while CREC is claiming time extension with cost as Bangladesh Railway fails to handover the Padma Bridge to CREC on January 3 this year.
Meanwhile Chinese Embassy, EXIM Bank and CREC expressed same opinion that the signalling and telecommunication equipment of Chinese companies should be given preference as the project is funded by the PBC of China EXIM Bank.
After a meeting with the officials of Chinese company CASCO the concerned railway officials said that the equipment from the company could not be accepted.