Dhaka, Jun 14 (PTI) The construction work of the Padma Bridge, Bangladesh’s longest, which will reduce the travel time between Dhaka and Kolkata, is almost complete and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate it on June 25, a senior official has said.
The upper level of the two-tier bridge over the Padma river will initially be opened for road transport, the press minister of the Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi Shaban Mahmood told a group of visiting Indian journalists here.
The railway line, under construction on the lower level, will reduce the distance from Dhaka (Bangladesh) to Kolkata (India) by almost half.
According to Bangladesh Railway officials, the railway bridge over the Padma river is expected to be operational by March 2024. After this the travel time between Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Kolkata (India) will be reduced by two thirds by the Maitree Express.
At present, the Maitree Express covers a distance of 400 km and reaches Dhaka Cantonment station in 10 hours from Kolkata via Nadia, Gede. According to officials, after the completion of the Padma bridge, the train will be able to reach Dhaka from Kolkata station via Bangaon Junction, Haridaspur Border, Benapole, Jessore, Narel and Faridpur. The distance of this route will be about 251 km, which will take the Maitree Express not more than three-and-a-half hours to cover.
The operation of rail services between India and Bangladesh, which was closed for almost two years due to Covid-19, was resumed in May 2022. The Maitree Express operates five days a week and has a passenger capacity of 450.
Mahmood told reporters that the construction of the Padma bridge has cost Taka 30,193.39 crore (USD 3.6 billion) and the entire amount will be financed by the Bangladesh government.
The World Bank had withdrawn from the loan agreement for the project following allegations of corruption. Subsequently, the Sheikh Hasina government decided to self-fund the project.
This ambitious project has been constructed by the Chinese company, China Railway Major Bridge Engineering Group Company Limited (MBEC). Despite the involvement and financial help of Chinese companies in other projects, the Sheikh Hasina government is taking full precautions, officials here said.
Bangladesh’s Information Minister Hassan Mahmood had dismissed security concerns during a conversation with the visiting Indian journalists here on Saturday.
“The international tender was floated for the construction of Padma bridge and the Chinese company got some work in the international tender…(in the tender bid) they were the lowest,” Mahmood said.
“This has happened in other projects as well. Similarly, Chinese companies are working on many projects in India, the same is the case here too,” he said.
Indian officials in Dhaka also said that Bangladesh is fully taking care of New Delhi’s security concerns in handing over projects to Chinese companies in its territory.
On July 4, 2001, Prime Minister Hasina laid the foundation stone of Padma bridge at Mawa in Munshiganj district.
According to the Bangladesh Bridge Authority, the two-tier main Padma bridge is 6.15 km long and has a four-lane road on the upper level, while the railway line is on the lower level.
The bridge will connect Lohaganj, Munshiganj with Shariatpur and Madaripur.
Bangladesh is expecting a huge boost in business and commercial activities with the commissioning of the Padma Bridge. According to official estimates, this will increase the country’s GDP by 1.2 per cent. PTI PAW SCY AKJ SCY
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