The Padma Bridge Rail Link Project (PBRLP) is a new 169km-long railway link being built to connect Bangladesh’s capital city Dhaka to Jashore, a major city located in the country’s south-west region.
Bangladesh Railway, the state-owned rail transport agency, is developing the BDT392.46bn ($4.55bn) project with Chinese financial support.
The rail link will pass through the Padma bridge, a 6.1km-long multi-purpose bridge being built across the Padma River. Construction on the bridge started in November 2014 and is expected to be completed in 2022.
The Padma Bridge rail link project was approved by the Bangladesh government in March 2016. The main construction work on the railway project started in July 2018, following the singing of a loan agreement with the Chinese Exim Bank in April 2018.
Scheduled to be completed in 2024, the rail link will connect the Munshiganj, Shariatpur, Madaripur, and Narail districts with Dhaka and reduce the travel time to south-west Bangladesh by several hours.
Padma Bridge Rail Link route and design details
The 169km rail link comprises four sections including the 3km link between Dhaka and Gandaria, the 37km-long Gandaria-Mawa section, the 42km-long Mawa-Bhanga section, and the 87km-long Bhanga Junction-Jessore section. The project also includes 43.2km of loop and siding line, bringing the total track length to 215.2km.
The PBRLP involves 66 major bridges including the 6.1km-long Padma bridge, as well as 244 minor bridges, one underpass, and 29 level crossings along the route. The total length of bridges along the route will be more than 30km while the total length of viaducts will be 23.7km.
The Padma bridge, which falls within the Mawa-Bhanga section of the rail link project, will connect Mawa to the existing network of the Western Zone of Bangladesh Railway through the Bhanga-Faridpur-Pachuria-Rajbari rail line.
The rail link project also includes the construction of 14 new station buildings, the remodelling of six existing station buildings, and the installation of computer-based railway relay interlocked signalling and telecommunications systems for 20 stations.
Padma multipurpose bridge details
The Padma bridge will have two decks. A single-track broad-gauge railway track will be on the lower deck while the upper deck will house a four-lane highway.
The 6.1km-long and 21.1m-wide bridge comprises 41 spans, each 150m long, and 41 piers, each supported by six 128m-long and 3m-diameter steel tube piles.
Utilities passing through the bridge will include a gas pipeline, a power transmission line, and an optic-fibre cable.
Benefits of the Padma Bridge rail link project
The rail link project will improve accessibility between Dhaka and the central and south-western regions of Bangladesh.
The alternate route provided by the project will be 212km shorter than the existing Dhaka-Jessore-Khulna railway line. The new route will also not have any speed or load restrictions and willallow Bangladesh Railway to introduce national and regional broad-gauge container train services.
The rail link will also create an opportunity to build a second line in the route to connect Barisal and the Payra Deep Sea Port.
Financing for the Padma Bridge rail link project
China is financing 85% of the project cost while the remaining 15% will be borne by the Government of Bangladesh.
The Economic Relations Division (ERD) of the Ministry of Finance of the Government of Bangladesh signed a $2.67bn loan agreement for the project in April 2018.
China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC) and 12 of its subsidiaries are engaged in the construction of the Padma Bridge rail link project.
CREC contracted CRRC Tangshan, a rolling stock manufacturer in China, to supply 100 broad-gauge passenger carriages, along with their spares and related services, for the project in May 2021.
China Major Bridge Engineering, a subsidiary of CREC, was contracted for the construction of the Padma multipurpose bridge.
AECOM, a professional and engineering services company based in the US, provided the design of the Padma bridge, which was certified and finalised by Flint & Neill Limited UK (now COWI).
Ringtech, a construction contractor based in Bangladesh, was subcontracted by CREC to complete the remaining bridges, culverts, and underpass for the project in 2020.
The Corps of Engineers of Bangladesh Army was appointed as the construction supervision consultant for the project in January 2017.
Professional services firm SMEC and its wholly-owned subsidiary ACE Consultants were contracted by the Corps of Engineers of Bangladesh Army to provide construction supervision consultancy services for the Padma Bridge rail link project in July 2017.
Bashundhara Cement, a subsidiary of Bangladeshi conglomerate Bashundhara Group, secured a contract from CREC in May 2019 to supply 700,000t of cement for the construction of the project.