Bangladesh will be able to achieve two per cent more economic growth once the Padma multi-purpose road and rail bridge, joining Dhaka with Jessore in the country’s west, is completed, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said.
Hasina unveiled on Sunday the name plaque of the bridge and Padma Bridge Rail Link Construction Project at a rally in Munshiganj on the outskirts of capital Dhaka.
The 25-metre-wide and 10-km-long double-decker bridge is being built with Chinese assistance over Padma River, one of the three major rivers in Bangladesh. A four-lane road would be built on the upper deck while a broad gauge single railway line will be on the lower deck.
Bangladesh in May signed a USD 3 billion loan deal with China’s Exim Bank to construct the Padma bridge rail link which is among the eight projects under the direct supervision of the Fast Track Project Monitoring Committee, headed by Hasina.
The country’s current GDP growth is 7.86 per cent and it would be possible to increase that by another 1.2 per cent once the bridge is constructed, Hasina said.
“After constructing the rail link, the country will be able to attain 2 per cent more growth. Once the rail and road on the Padma bridge would be built, government target to attain 10 per cent GDP growth would not be a tough job,” she was quoted as saying by the Daily Star.
According to the latest report of the Asian Development Bank, Bangladesh posted a GDP growth 7.9 per cent in FY18, and is expected to achieve 7.5 pc growth in FY19.
A Chinese company is implementing the project under the government-to-government (G2G) arrangement, the China’s state-run news agency Xinhua reported.
Bangladesh Railway Minister Mujibul Haque said the 168 km-long rail line, linking Dhaka and western district Jessore, will be a major freight and passenger transport line in the country.
Apart from connecting nearly 30 million people in Bangladesh’s southwest region to the rest of the country, the bridge will enhance regional trade and collaboration along the Asian highway No 1 and the Trans-Asian railway network, aimed at creating an integrated freight railway network across Europe and Asia, the report said.
According to experts, once operational, the bridge will ease pressure on the country’s premier seaport Chittagong, about 242 kms southeast of Dhaka, as it will bolster the second largest Mongla seaport, 178 kms southwest of the capital.
The contract to lay the USD 4.44-billion railway line was awarded to the state-owned Chinese firm in 2014.
The total project cost would be met through China government’s soft loan and the Bangladesh government’s own funds, the report said, adding that the construction would be complete by June, 2022.
The rail link project also includes construction of 66 main bridges, 244 minor bridges, 14 new rail stations and procurement of 100 passenger coaches, the report said, adding that trains will travel at a maximum speed of 120 kms per hour on this track.