BANGLADESH: The project to build the 225 km Padma Rail Link formally got underway on July 3, following the signing on April 27 of US$2·67bn loan agreement between the government and China Eximbank.

Bangladesh Railway and China Railway First Group Ltd had signed a US$3·14bn contract for civil works and railway systems in August 2016, but the start of work was dependent on the terms of the Chinese loan being finalised.

The government has now agreed to meet 20% of the cost of the 350bn taka project, with the remaining 80% to be financed from Chinese credits. Signing of the loan has allowed the contractor to be paid an initial 20% of the contract value, and land for the 50 km first phase between Mawa and Bhanga has been handed over.

Completion of the line is envisaged by June 2022, but it is hoped that the initial section can be competed in time for the inauguration of the 6·2 km road and rail bridge over the River Padma which is currently under construction.

The 1 676 mm gauge line is to start in Dhaka and run to Bhanga and Jessore, connecting with the existing Faridpur – Bhanga and Rajbari – Bhatiapara Ghat routes. This is intended to form the future backbone of the rail network in the southwest of the country, providing a direct connection with the capital.