Staff Correspondent: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) jointly developed a database on transport infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region. The platform is called Asian Transport Outlook (ATO). It analyzes the cost per kilometer of various railway projects (non-urban heavy rail projects) constructed and under construction in the Asia-Pacific region. According to the data analyzed by ATO, several projects in Bangladesh are at the top level in terms of construction cost per kilometer among the railway construction projects in the Asia-Pacific region. Out of this, the highest expenditure per kilometer is on the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project. The construction cost per kilometer of this project is $76.37 million. According to the source of World Rail Index, the Padma Rail Link has created a new history in per kilometer construction cost.
In 2018, China started the construction of a 199 km long railway from Xianyang to Lincheng. The estimated construction cost of the project is $2,194 million. Considering the actual purchasing power of international currencies on the basis of purchasing power parity or PPP, this cost rises to $3,751 million. According to this, the construction of the railway from Xianyang to Lincheng is costing $18.85 million per kilometer.
$20.36 million per kilometer is being spent on the construction of China’s Luzhou-Huzhou railway. The estimated construction cost of the railway is $2,775 million. According to PPP, this cost has increased to $4,743 million. The construction of the Luzhou-Huzhou railway started in 2018.
In 2018, Cambodia began construction of a 257 km long railway from Phnom Penh to Lock In (Vietnam border). The cost per kilometer for the construction of the railway is $7.26 million.
In 2016, India began construction of a railway dedicated to transporting goods. The length of this railway called Western Dedicated Freight Corridor is 1,534 km. According to Asian Transport Outlook, the construction cost of the railway is $9.28 million per kilometer.
In contemporary times, Bangladesh also embarked on several railway construction projects. One of them is the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project. A 169 km long railway is being constructed from Dhaka to Jessore through this project which started in 2018. The construction cost of the railway so far in Bangladeshi currency is Tk 39,246 crores, which is equivalent to $4,574 million. According to PPP, this expenditure increased to $12,907 million. According to this, $76.37 million is being spent to construct one kilometer of railway through the Padma Setu Rail Link Project. The Dhaka-Bhanga section of the project was inaugurated in October last year.
In the meantime, it has been proposed to increase the cost of the project by about Tk 286 crore. The project authority has proposed an increase in the cost due to increase in VAT and tax amount, increased scope of works like broken junction overhead station building, Tttipara underpass, new railover at Tularampur, Dhaka-Gendaria third line, 11th floor employer building, Singia station building, addition of lift and escalator. If the proposal is approved, the cost of the project will increase to Tk 39,532 crores.
$14.43 million per kilometer has been spent on the construction of Khulna port link railway (Khulna-Mongla). 75 km of new railway line has been constructed through this project which started in 2010. Similarly, $24.28 million per kilometer has been spent on the construction of Akhaura-Agartala railway.
On the other hand, among the projects started between 2010 and 2018, construction cost per kilometer has decreased relatively in Dohazari-Ramu-Cox’s Bazar railway construction project. According to the calculation of Asian Transport Outlook, the construction cost of this project per kilometer of railway is $6.43 million.
Transport experts say that countries like China, India and Cambodia have more mountainous areas. Again, the railways which these countries have built recently, the speed limit of train movement is also higher. In contrast, railway projects in Bangladesh are in relatively flat areas. Again, the maximum speed limit is less. In such a context, they think that it would be reasonable if the cost of railway construction projects in Bangladesh is relatively low.
If you want to know about the matter, transport expert and professor of Bangladesh University of Engineering (BUET). Samchul Haque told, “All railways in China start at around 150”. They also have more mountainous areas. As such, our expenses are very high. Moreover, we also have structural flaws in our construction. We double the cost by doing the feasibility study, without doing the support project.
Blaming the land acquisition and management errors behind the high construction cost in Bangladesh, he said, ‘We have a high cost of land acquisition here. There is very little local material on it. It is from both material and human resources side. Totally dependent. Dependence shows no sign of abating. Maybe in future we will use our human resources. We may have shortage of construction materials. The difference is supposed to be so much if it can be done competitively from outside and within a certain period of time. All in all, the philosophy on this matter needs to be changed and re-evaluated. Talent is a capital. We have to create this capital.
He also said, ‘I will emphasize the feasibility study the most. It should not be a formality, but a document. What will be written in this document may vary slightly. But so that there is no double cost.
However, Railway Minister Nurul Islam Sujan thinks that the cost of railway construction projects in Bangladesh is at a reasonable level. He told, “It is wrong to say that the construction cost of railways in Bangladesh is high. Those who say, maybe they don’t care about land acquisition, rehabilitation of affected people here.
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