Medical &Health

30bn dollar master plan for railways

Bangladesh has embarked on a 20-year master plan to spend 30 billion dollars on 235 railway projects by 2030, top government official said.

The overall aim is to increase Bangladesh Railways market share from around 4% at present to 15% for freight and 10% for passenger traffic.

The country currently has 2,877 kilometers of railroads and aims to add another 375 kilometers by the end of this year.

China is offering $9 billion in soft loans at 2 percent interest, repayable over 15 years with a five-year grace period. The funding plan was discussed at two meetings last year.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is also expected to fund some of the projects. It has already agreed to fund the 129 kilometer Dohazari-Gundum railway line at a cost of 1.5 billion dollars. The Bangladesh government will provide 512 million US dollars for the 2.2 billion dollar project.

Under an extended plan the ADB has agreed to finance construction of a railway connecting the deep-sea port of Matarbari. Negotiations are also on to mobilize the rest of the money.

Bangladesh wants the cash to build at least six railway projects connecting the capital with key industrial and urban installations. It also has a program of updating existing lines and building bridges.

The Bangladesh government, earlier this year, approved a 172-kilometer rail project that would cost 4.5 billion dollars and would connect Dhaka with Jessore.

The track will cross the 6.15-kilometer, under-construction Padma Bridge, which will be the largest bridge of the country.

The bridge is the centerpiece of efforts to connect a nation that has been fragmented for centuries by more than 700 rivers that flow across its vast floodplains. The bridge, over the main channel of the Ganges, should open to traffic by 2018, with the Jessore rail line due to be completed four years later.

The two projects would boost the country's economic growth by 1.5-1.75 percentage point, according to Planning Minister A.H.M. Mustafa Kamal.

Bangladesh has conferred about further loans for other rail lines too, including a $4 billion dual track from Dhaka to Chittagong, the largest single railway project in the country.

Raising the investment rate to 34 percent of GDP, from 25 percent now, could see the pace of economic expansion accelerate to 8 percent, according to a study by Sadiq Ahmed, vice chairman of Dhaka-based Policy Research Institute.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)