Padma Bridge rail project hits snag

Implementation of the US$2.6-billion cost Padma Bridge Rail Link project will be delayed by 13 months due to serious dispute between the Chinese contractor concerned and the project implementing authority.

The China Railway Group Limited (CREC), contractor of the much-hyped project, in a recent letter to the Economic Relations Division (ERD), pointed out seven issues, centring on which the dispute emerged.

These include fund crisis, slow review, incomplete land acquisition, and disagreement over safety issues.

The project officials, however, denied many of the CREC’s allegations.

The letter, a copy of which is seen by the FE, says that if the issues cannot be resolved, the project implementation will face uncertainty.

Documents show that no interim payment has been given to the contractor since the project was commenced on July 03, 2018.

The Chinese contractor made it clear that imminent fund crisis is seriously affecting the project’s progress.

It is also learnt that until last month the Bangladesh Railway (BR) could not hand over required land for the project to the contractor.

“Such a breach of contract by the employer has been seriously impeding work progress of the project,” the letter said.

The Chinese contractor further alleged that its suggestions for ensuring safety of the rail track were rejected by the BR.

When the CREC came to know that the BR is planning to implement the rail-line project through one-point traction, it suggested two-point tractions.

The Chinese company opined that one-point traction might cause derailment, as maximum speed for the line is estimated at 120 km per hour.

The BR rejected the proposal due to additional cost involved in it. But the CREC categorically pointed out that one-point traction system, as planned by the BR, ‘is a great potential safety hazard for a train operated at the speed of 120 km per hour’.

The contractor also raised objections about the quality of steel, which the BR is planning to use for constructing the track.

The BR planned to use R320Cr type of material for its ballast-less track. But the CREC suggested that this grade of steel is unstable, and has abnormal microstructure for welding.

Instead of using it, the CREC suggested R350LHT type of steel, saying that the change will not cause any additional cost. But the change was not approved by the BR.

However, when contacted, project director Golam Fakhruddin Ahmed Chowdhury said he is yet to receive the contractor’s objections.

“The CREC has not told us anything about the traction. Instead of informing the BR, the company should tell us directly about it.”

About the issue of interim fund, he said the fund will be disbursed very soon.

Regarding land acquisition, he said the contractor was handed over the required lands phase by phase.

The CREC also raised objections about slow review and approval process of its submissions to the BR.

“In many cases employer and consultant have failed to review and reply to contractor within 21 days from submission as per contract,” the letter said.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the project in last October. A loan agreement amounting to $2.66 billion was signed between China and Bangladesh to implement the project.

The first phase of the project will establish rail-link between Mawa and Bhanga through the Padma Bridge.

Mir Mostafizur Rahaman


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