The Asian Development Bank has approved its largest ever railway investment and its biggest investment in Bangladesh (Photo: ADB).

BANGLADESH: The Asian Development Bank approved its largest ever railway investment and its biggest investment in Bangladesh on September 28, a US$1·5bn loan package to finance the construction of a 102 km line which will link the tourist town of Cox’s Bazar with the existing network at Dohazari.

Construction of the 1 676/1 000 mm dual gauge line is expected to cost a total of US$2·012bn. The government is to provide US$512m on top of the four-tranche ADB financing, and a further $1m in technical assistance to help Bangladesh Railway with safety awareness and procurement. The government is also rehabilitating the existing 47 km Chittagong – Dohazari line under a separate project.

ADB said the nine new stations would provide links to other transport modes, and would be designed with the needs of the elderly, women, children and people with disabilities in mind.

ADB expects high demand from the 2·2 million people living in the Cox’s Bazar district. Special trains would run from Dhaka to support an expected 5% annual increase in the 1·9 million tourists who visit the town’s beaches every year.

Under a second phase, ADB expects to enhance the capacity of the future rail line and finance extensions to the Myanmar border and a planned deep-sea port on Matarbari Island, north of Cox’s Bazar. Converting the Dhaka – Chittagong line to dual gauge is to be financed under another ADB project.

The project forms part of the United Nations Economic & Social Commission for Asia & the Pacific’s Trans-Asia Railway network, and is intended to improve access to Myanmar and beyond.

The new line is one of a number of projects on the Dhaka – Chittagong – Cox’s Bazar and Dhaka – Khulna corridors which ADB and other partners are supporting to help Bangladesh meet its targets under its seventh five year plan and railway master plan. The overall aim is to increase BR’s market share from around 4% at present to 15% for freight and 10% for passenger traffic.