The cabinet committee has given the go-ahead to the railways ministry to appoint a Japanese firm as supervision consultant and for preparing a detailed design of a separate railway bridge on the Jamuna river.
The government targets to build the 4.8 kilometre-long-bridge 300 metres upstream of the existing Bangabandhu Jamuna bridge at a cost of around Tk 9,734 crore by 2023. Of the total cost, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) would finance Tk 7,724 crore.
The cabinet committee on purchase yesterday approved awarding the job of detailed design and assisting in preparing tender documents and consultancy for supervision work to a joint venture company led by Oriental Consultants Global Co Ltd, Japan at a cost of around Tk 795 crore.
Two other companies in the joint venture are Development Design Consultant Ltd, Bangladesh and Sub-Consultant ACE Consultants Ltd, Bangladesh.
An agreement was signed between Bangladesh and Jica on June 30, 2016 for financing the project. In December last year the ECNEC also approved the proposal for a separate railway bridge.
Construction of an exclusive rail bridge over the Jamuna has become very crucial as the Bangabandhu Multipurpose Bridge is now handicapped by various limitations, including restrictions on speed and load of trains, an official of the railways ministry said.
The Bangabandhu Bridge connects the northern region with the capital. According to its present capacity, 22 trains can pass through it in 24 hours.
But there is an increasing demand for running more passenger and freight trains. Passengers often travel standing in compartments due to limited seating capacity, noted BR officials.
The speed limit for trains had been 40 kilometres per hour in the original design, which was reduced to 20 km/h for passenger trains, and 16 km/h for freight trains.
While crossing the bridge, a train cannot haul two locomotives and freight trains must have empty containers in between loaded ones.
Regional connectivity through the proposed Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) and transit with India, Nepal and Bhutan will create huge traffic potential for railway, a planning ministry report said when the project was approved.
The TAR is a project to create an integrated freight railway network across Europe and Asia.
But the country will not be able to capitalise on the opportunity without a dedicated railway bridge on the Jamuna, since rail corridors and transit routes are supposed to use the Bangabandhu Bridge, an official of the railways ministry said.