Kalurghat bridge in Ctg: Cost to rise 5-fold as new design placed
The long-awaited Kalurghat Rail-cum-Road Bridge Project of Bangladesh Railway has been delayed by four years even before the work began, due to its incomplete architectural design.
A redesigning of the bridge over the Karnaphuli river, adding a road deck above the previously designed rail deck, has seen the estimated project cost go up by Tk 5,141 crore, taking the total cost to Tk 6,341 crore, said railway officials.
In 2018, the BR had planned to implement the project at an estimated cost of Tk 1,200 crore. It was supposed to be completed in 2024.
But the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) on August 7 that year returned the project proposal, citing that the architectural design was incomplete, said Golam Mostafa, focal person of the project.
On July 5 this year, Yooshin Engineering Corporation, a subsidiary of South Korea's state-owned Exim Bank, a potential donor of the project, submitted a revised proposal to the BR on location, design, cost and construction period of the 780-metre-long bridge.
A feasibility study on the project and its architectural design have been prepared by the Korean company, the officials added.
The current Kalurghat railway bridge, built in 1931, was declared "risky" by the BR in 2001.
Trains now run on the bridge at a speed of 10km/h. Vehicles bound for Boalkhali and Patiya upazilas in South Chattogram also use the structure.
Traffic congestion is a common sight on both ends of the bridge as traffic can only move one way at a time.
Mostafa said South Korea's Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) agreed to provide 100 percent funding for the revamped project as loan on soft conditions.
Mostafa attributed the cost escalation to major changes in the two-lane bridge's design.
Asked about the delay in preparing the new design, he said the Covid pandemic and search for potential financiers caused the delay.
The design is currently at the Prime Minister's Office for approval. A presentation is likely to be made there on it on August 17, he added.
Mostafa said the new bridge would be built 70 metres north of the existing one. The construction work would begin in 2024 and end within four years if everything is on track, he told The Daily Star.
He said the revised project proposal is likely to be tabled in the Ecnec meeting in December next.
According to the proposal, 5.62 km approach road will be built on both banks of the river. The height of the bridge will be 12.2 metres above the high flood level.
The bridge will have eight pillars and each span of the structure will be 100-metre long.
Speaking to this newspaper requesting anonymity, a BR official said additional spending on the project could have been cut significantly had there been no delay in the implementation.
Akter Kabir Chowdhury, secretary of Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik's (Shujan's) Chattogram chapter, said thousands of people have been suffering over the years because of the dilapidated Kalurghat bridge.
A new bridge would reduce the sufferings to a great extent, but the BR failed to start implementing the project due to inefficiency, incompetence, and lack of accountability of its officials, he said.
This is going to incur huge additional costs -- ultimately paid with public money, Akter added.