The Padma Bridge Rail Link : A Visionary Railway Project for Bangladesh’s Future

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The Padma Bridge Rail Link, a 6.15 km mega structure spanning the Padma River in southern Bangladesh, is one of the most challenging and prestigious infrastructure projects in the country’s history. Along with the road bridge, plans are also underway to build a parallel Padma Bridge Rail Link on the bridge as part of an ambitious railway modernization vision. Once completed, the Padma Bridge rail connection will radically improve domestic rail connectivity and have far-reaching impacts on Bangladesh.

Padma Bridge Rail Link

Overview of the Padma Bridge Rail Project

The Padma Bridge rail link project involves laying railway tracks on the 6.15 km long bridge that will carry trains of speeds up to 100 km/hr. As the bridge design had already accounted for the extra load, no major modification is required to retrofit the rail system. The rail line starting from Mawa point will pass through Janjira and terminate at Jajira point after crossing the bridge, seamlessly connecting to the rest of the railway network.

The Bangladesh Railway Department is overseeing the implementation in collaboration with multiple global engineering consultants. As per plans, the Mawa-Jajira rail track will facilitate passenger movement and freight transport between the capital Dhaka and Bangladesh’s southwest region. Once operational, the travel time between Dhaka and Khulna will come down to just 2.5 hours from the present 12 hours.

Strategic Impact of the Padma Bridge Rail

The Padma Bridge Railway will strategically integrate Bangladesh’s southwestern zones with the rest of the country and India. Some major benefits include:

  • Direct freight and passenger rail connectivity from Dhaka to 21 southwestern districts through the bridge.
  • Faster domestic cargo movement from seaports to inland container depots.
  • Alternative rail route reducing pressure on the overcrowded Akhaura-Laksham-Chittagong line.
  • Boost to cross-border connectivity and trade with India via new rail links.
  • Opportunity for a regional rail network connecting Bangladesh, India and Nepal.

Key Features of the Padma Rail Link

  1. Design Speed – 100 km/hr passenger trains, 60 km/hr freight trains
  2. Loading Gauge – Designed for heavy loads up to 25 tons per axle
  3. Track Type – Dual gauge allowing both broad gauge and meter gauge
  4. Signalling System – Electronic interlocking for speed and safety
  5. River Protection – Geo bags on bank slopes prevent erosion
  6. Power Supply – Overhead electric lines to power locomotives
  7. Control Systems – Modern control room at Mawa point
  8. Number of Lines – Initial single line with future double line plan
  9. Passenger Amenities – Air-conditioned lounges and rest areas
  10. Freight Facilities – Siding connections for freight handling
  11. Flood Protection – Tracks engineered to withstand floods

Challenges in Constructing the Padma Rail Link

  1. Engineering Constraints – Integrating tracks on a existing bridge structure
  2. River Conditions – Designing an erosion-resistant system below water
  3. Limited Space – Fitting systems within narrow available width
  4. Maintaining Operations – Building tracks without hampering road traffic
  5. Procurement Issues – Sourcing reliable technology and contractors
  6. Funding Limitations – Mobilizing adequate financing for the capital intensive project
  7. Technical Skill Shortage – Availability of capable railway engineers in Bangladesh
  8. Coordination Complexities – Aligning multiple agencies like BR, BBAs, MoC

Impacts of the Padma Bridge Rail Link

Reduced Travel Time

  • The Mawa-Jajira rail route via the bridge cuts travel time between Dhaka and southwestern districts.

Boost to National Railways

  • Alternative freight and passenger routes ease congestion and augment rail capacity.

Spurring Economic Growth

  • Faster transport corridor to spur industrialization and growth of southwestern region.

Strengthened Rail Connectivity

  • Seamless connectivity for freight and passenger trains between Dhaka, Khulna and West Bengal.

Enhanced Port Efficiency

  • Quick cargo movement from sea ports to inland container stations through western corridors.

Cross-Border Trade

  • Allows regional trade with India through new freight rail links.

Tourism Development

  • Rail access encourages tourism in southwest region and sites like Sundarbans.

Padma Bridge Train Ticket Price

The Padma Bridge rail link project promises to radically improve train connectivity between Dhaka and Bangladesh’s southwestern regions. Once operational, the travel time from Dhaka to major southwestern cities like Khulna is expected to reduce from 12 hours currently to only about 2.5 hours. Naturally, the prospect has created eagerness around the potential train ticket prices and affordability of the new rail route.

As per Bangladesh Railway officials, the final ticket prices for trains running on the Padma Bridge route will be decided closer to the project’s completion. However, initial estimates can be made looking at existing train fares and the operating costs involved.

Currently, the Dhaka to Khulna train ticket price for 1st class air conditioned berth is Tk 1,459. The 2nd class air conditioned berth costs Tk 1,016. For non-airconditioned travel, 1st class fare is Tk 609 and 2nd class is Tk 365.

Once the Padma link opens, the journey distance will reduce from around 270 km currently to 170 km. Considering this 100 km reduction, the ticket prices can reasonably be expected to decrease proportionately.

Accounting for shorter distance and faster travel time, the projected first class AC fare between Dhaka and Khulna could be around Tk 1,100 on the new route. For second class AC, it may be around Tk 750. Non-AC first class could be priced at Tk 450 and second class at around Tk 275.

Here are some common questions on the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project

When will construction of the Padma rail link start?

  • Construction of the 19 km Mawa-Jajira rail line is expected to begin in 2024 once design and preparations are ready.

What will be the route of the Padma bridge railway?

  • The route starts from Mawa, crosses Padma on the bridge and ends at Jajira, passing through Janjira station in between.

How long will the rail journey between Dhaka and Khulna be after the link opens?

  • The Padma rail link will reduce travel time from Dhaka to Khulna from the current 12 hours to only 2.5 hours.

What will be the cost of building the Padma bridge rail project?

  • The estimated project cost as per current plans is Tk 9,800 crore. This includes the bridge rail tracks and connected lines.

What railway technology will be used on the bridge?

  • As per plans, modern electric locomotives, overhead catenary power lines, electronic interlocking and dual gauge tracks will be used.

How will the Padma rail link boost Bangladesh’s economy?

  • It will enable faster movement of goods and people to the southwest region boosting trade, connectivity and industrialization.

Which neighboring country will benefit from the new rail connection?

  • The Padma rail link will enhance transit rail connectivity between Bangladesh and India enabling regional trade.

Will broad gauge be used on the bridge tracks?

  • Yes, provision has been kept for dual gauge allowing both broad gauge and meter gauge on the bridge and connected lines.

Will existing train services be disrupted during construction?

  • No, the bridge has space for construction of lines without hampering existing road traffic.

What new opportunity will the rail link create for Bangladesh’s railways?

  • It will establish an alternative freight corridor to ease congestion and improve capacity of the overburdened eastern rail routes.

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