– Wants 80pc ownership in the project
– BD govt reconsidering the proposal
– The train to take 55 minutes to travel non-stop from Dhaka to Ctg
Ibrahim Khalil Jewel: A project proposed to build a bullet train from Dhaka to Chattogram was surveyed and designed by China Railway Design Corporation (CRDC), a Chinese state-owned company. More than 100 crore of taka have been spent on surveying and designing the project alone. At one stage, the government has withdrawn from the decision to implement this expensive project ‘for now’ on principle. Even in this situation CRDC wants to build the railway. In return, the company wants 80 percent ownership of the railway. The Ministry of Railways had sent a letter last week seeking Railways’ views on CRDC’s proposal. In the letter, the Railways has been asked to give its opinion by December 20, 2022.
According to the study, a train will take 55 minutes to travel non-stop from Dhaka toChattogram on this 224 km long railway. About 50,000 passengers can be transported through the high speed railway in a day.
China is building a similar high-speed railway in Indonesia. A joint venture company owned by China and Indonesia has been awarded the contract to build the railway, which is under construction from the capital Jakarta to Bandung, the provincial capital of West Java.
China will get 40 percent of the profits from the railway. The entire ownership of the railway under the ‘Build Own Operate Transfer (BOOT)’ model will be transferred to Indonesia after 50 years of operation.
But the CRDC proposal given to the Ministry of Railways said that Bangladesh will never get the full ownership of the Dhaka-ChattogramHigh Speed Railway. The railway will be constructed on a ‘build own operate’ or ‘BOO’ model.
According to the model, a company called ‘Bangladesh High Speed Railway Limited’ or ‘BHSR’ will be formed to build the railway. The responsibility of construction and management of the railway will be entrusted to this company. Bangladesh will have 20 percent share in the company. CRDC, a Chinese government-owned company, will own 80 percent of the shares. The two countries will provide some money as capital to the company. A major part of the construction cost will be raised through bank loans. Bangladesh and China will repay the debt based on the share ownership of the company.
The cost of construction of Dhaka-Chattogramhigh speed railway is estimated to be around 1,110 crore dollar. According to China’s proposal, Bangladesh will have to pay 20 percent of the construction cost of 169 crore dollar. Out of this, the Bangladesh government will provide capital of 34 crore dollar. 135 crore dollar will be borrowed. China will invest 677 crore dollar as an 80 percent share. Of this, they will provide 135 crore dollar as capital. 542 crore dollar will be borrowed. The interest rate of the loan will be decided by the proposed company and the lending institution.
According to China’s proposal, the Dhaka-Chattogramcorridor will be operated with 100% Chinese workers for the next five years. At the same time, a group of workers from Bangladesh will be sent to China for training. They will return to Bangladesh after acquiring the necessary skills in train management. From the sixth to the tenth year, the number of Chinese and Bangladeshi workers responsible for managing the railway will be equal. And from 11 to 15 years at least 10 percent Chinese workers will be retained. Going into its 16th year, the railway will be operated with 100% Bangladeshi workers.
On November 2, the proposal was given by the CRDC on its own initiative to the Ministry of Railways. In view of this proposal, the Ministry of Railways has instructed Bangladesh Railways to give its opinion by December 20.
According to the proposal, the Joint Venture Company ‘BHSR’ will design, procure and construct the Dhaka-ChattogramHigh Speed Railway. They will also operate, manage and maintain the railway. The company will be governed by a joint management board.
CRDC’s proposal sent to the Secretary of the Ministry of Railways states that no one will invest in the construction of the Dhaka-Chattogramhigh-speed railway in public-private partnership (PPP) or ‘BOOT’ model due to the huge construction cost. In such a context, Indonesia’s Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway is an example of ‘successful’ implementation.
It is also stated in the proposal that Bangladesh will do ancillary work including land acquisition and rehabilitation necessary for the implementation of the project. Apart from this, the proposed company will be given tax exemption for the implementation of the project.
The proposal also recommended the formation of a ‘working group’ from the Bangladesh Prime Minister’s office to build the high-speed railway with the Chinese government. The group will liaise with China’s National Development and Reform Commission and China State Railway Group Company Limited (former Ministry of China). China Railway Design Corporation will fully support the working group.
The proposal of China was discussed recently in the meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Railways. Standing Committee President ABM Fazle Karim Chowdhury highlighted various points of China’s proposal in the meeting.
When asked about China’s proposal, Bangladesh Railways Director General DN Majumder said, “We are getting various proposals regarding the implementation of the Dhaka-Chattogramhigh-speed railway. Proposals are under review.
Bangladesh Railway is currently implementing a project called ‘Feasibility Study and Detailed Design for Construction of Dhaka-ChattogramVia Cumilla/Laksam High Speed Railway’ for construction of high speed train from Dhaka toChattogram. 113 crore taka are being spent to conduct the survey. The study estimates the potential cost of building the railway at 1,140 crore dollar.
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