Padma Bridge is now due to open by the end of the year

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The wait for the Padma Bridge to be completed is set to lengthen as the Prime Minister yesterday said the bridge would be open to the public by the end of the year.

This deadline is later than those put forward by senior government officials and project managers. They had announced earlier that the 6.15km bridge would be open to traffic by June this year.

Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader reiterated the deadline as late as Sunday.

But Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in a written response during a question and answer session tabled in parliament yesterday, said: ‘Work is in full swing to open the Padma Bridge to traffic by the end of 2022’ .

Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam hinted yesterday that the delay in getting some materials from European countries due to the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war could be a reason for the change in deadline.

Also, if the bridge is open to the public in June this year, railway authorities would not be able to simultaneously start railway operations on the bridge.

The installation of the railway on the bridge has not yet started as the Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA), the implementing authority of the bridge, has not yet handed over the structure to Bangladesh Railway to start work, project officials said.

The Bangladesh Railway Authority is now planning to start installing the railway tracks on the bridge from July and hope to be ready to start railway operations on the Mawa-Bhanga section via the Padma Bridge by December this year.

The plan to simultaneously begin operations of rail and road services on the bridge could be another reason for the delay change, sources told BR.

Once in service, the bridge will connect the capital to 21 southwestern districts by road and rail, relieving tens of thousands of people who often face difficulties at two ferry terminals, which escalate before the major festivals.

The two-story bridge – a four-lane road at the top and a wide-gauge railway at the bottom – is expected to boost the country’s gross domestic product by 1.2%.

BR is implementing a Tk 39,246.79 Crore Padma Bridge Rail Link Project to construct a 169 km railway line from Dhaka to Jashore via the Padma Bridge.

CHANGE OF DELAY

Although the accelerated project was approved in August 2007, physical works did not start until November 2014, mainly due to financing complications before the government decided to implement the project with its own funds.

After several revisions, the project deadline was set for June 2023, including a one-year default liability period, and the cost increased to Tk’s 30,193 crore from TK’s 10,161 crore of origin.

On December 10, 2020, when the last span of the Padma Bridge was installed, Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam said that the bridge would be open to the public by June 2022.

Obaidul Quader reiterated the deadline several times and on Sunday, after a meeting on the progress of the project, his ministry reconfirmed the deadline in a press release.

The overall progress of the project was 92% – 97% for the main bridge and 90.5% for the river formation works, the press release reads. The progress of the carpet laying work was 65.68%.

The meeting was attended by, among others, the Cabinet Secretary, who previously had a long tenure as Secretary of the Bridge Division.

Asked about the Prime Minister’s speech, the cabinet secretary, after yesterday’s weekly cabinet meeting, told reporters: ‘The original deadline for the project is December 2022. We are trying… I will talk to him [PM].”

He said there is a logic behind his speech as the project authorities are facing problems in bringing in some materials from European countries due to the war in Ukraine.

Project sources said the bridge’s aluminum railing was believed to come from a UK factory, but was closed for around two years due to Covid.

“But when the materials were ready to be shipped, no ship was found to bring the war-due ones to Ukraine. The materials were supposed to arrive in March, but shipment started from the UK on March 26. It will take 45 days to reach Bangladesh,” said one of the project managers, wishing not to be named.

PADMA RAIL LINK

BR is implementing a Tk 39,246.79 Crore Padma Bridge Rail Link Project to construct a 169 km railway line from Dhaka to Jashore via the Padma Bridge.

BR planned to start rail operations on the Mawa-Bhanga section the same day the bridge opened to the public. The rail track on the bridge would be installed by a BR contractor, but BBA did not hand over the bridge for the work, BR officials said.

Padma Bridge Rail Link Project Manager Afzal Hossain said he plans to start track installation work in the first week of July this year as BBA verbally informed them of the handover of the bridge after June.

“We are supposed to take six months to complete the work but we will try to do it within five months by deploying more manpower,” he told the Daily Star yesterday.

He said their contractor had suggested limiting vehicle speeds between 20 and 25 km per hour or shutting down vehicular operations between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. on the bridge if the road is open before lanes are installed because vibration vehicles interfere with the works.

If the bridge is open in December, they won’t have to apply to the BBA, he said.

Responding to another question, he said work on the Mawa-Bhanga section had progressed by 78 percent and they hoped to be ready to start rail operations on this section by December. Bhanga is already connected to the country’s rail network.

The Daily Star was unable to reach Padma Multipurpose Bridge project manager Shafiqul Islam and BBA executive director Monjur Hossain by phone.

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