Bangabandhu bridge over the River Jamuna.

Bangabandhu bridge over the River Jamuna.

BANGLADESH: Planning for a major programme of railway upgrading and intermodal transport projects is set to move forward following the approval of a US$42m package of ‘project readiness financing’ by the Asian Development Bank on February 7.

ADB is helping to fund a US$57·2m package of works for completion by 2024, with the government contributing the remainder. The projects to be taken forward are intended to improve road and rail connectivity to ports and border crossing points, intermodal transhipment facilities and container terminals.

Among the 11 rail projects is a second Hardinge Bridge across the Padma River to improve links to the southwest of the country, where the 37 km Jessore – Benapole line will be double-tracked. The 1 676 mm gauge lines from Abdulpur to Rajshahi near the Indian border and north to Santahar and Parbatipur totalling 198 route-km are also to be doubled, while a 60 km cut-off is to be built from Santahar to the border crossing at Rohanpur. The 167 km metre-gauge line from Santahar to Bogura, Kaunia and Lalmonirhat is to be rebuilt as a double-track mixed gauge route.

To the east of the Jamuna River, the 68 km line running north from Bangabandhu Bridge East to Takarandi, Jamalpur and Dewanganj will be converted from a single-track metre gauge line to double-track broad gauge. A similar conversion is planned for the 115 km line linking Bhairab Bazar and Mymensingh.

A bypass will be built around the busy junction at Tongi on the approach to Dhaka, while a 177 km direct line from Narayanganj to Comilla or Laksam would significantly shorten the main line from the capital to the southeast of the country.

Other works include the installation of automatic train protection and improvements to the existing CTC, together with the installation of an optic fibre telecommunications network and improved passenger facilities at major stations.

‘Bangladesh’s transport network is critical infrastructure supporting the country’s economic activities and promoting international trade’, explained Transport Specialist Kaoru Kasahara. ‘ADB’s Transport Connectivity Improvement Preparatory Facility will help meet rapidly growing transport demand by financing feasibility studies, detailed design, and other preparatory works to support the preparation of road and railway projects.’