Sonamasjid land port to be brought under rail network
Bangladesh Railway is looking to build a new rail line to bring Sonamasjid land port under the country's rail network.
Sonamasjid is one of the major land ports through which a huge amount of goods are imported annually from India.
BR has already carried out the feasibility study and estimated that Tk 6,114.48 crore would be required to build the 36.74-kilometre-long rail line between Chapainawabganj to Sonamasjid land port.
The proposed timeline for the project is July 2023 to June 2028, including a one-year defect liability period, BR sources said.
The agency held a meeting over the potential project with its Director General Quamrul Ahsan in the chair at the Rail Bhaban yesterday, they said.
The meeting decided to send a Pre-Development Project Proposal (PDPP) to the railways ministry as the project requires a big amount of money. The ministry will send the PDPP to Economic Relations Division via the Planning Commission to find foreign financers, they added.
Currently, Chapainawabganj, the western district, is currently linked with BR network through Rajshahi, but does not have any rail link with Sonamasjid land port.
Different types of goods are regularly being imported from India via the port and are later transported through roadways.
According to the Bangladesh Land Port Authority's annual report-2021-22,
tonnes of goods were imported and 0.20 tonnes exported through the port in last fiscal year. The volume of goods being carried through Sonamasjid is the fourth highest among the 12 land ports operating in the country.
Besides, there are several archeological sites, including Chhoto Sona Masjid (mosque) in the area. But tourism there has not flourished due to the absence of a rail link. Moreover, the area is famous for mango production and rail communication will help transport the fruit.
BR sources said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, while visiting Chapainawabganj in May 2015, had announced that her government would build a new rail line to bring Sonamasjid under the rail network. Local lawmaker Abdul Wadud later requested BR to carry out the feasibility study for it.
The study was completed by BR last year, they added.
Apart from 36.74km main line, the authority has to build 12.26km loop and siding lines, documents show.
There will be five stations for the new line -- Chapainawabganj Bypass, Naya Nawbhanga, Shibganj, Kansat and Sonamasjid.
Additionally, there will be three major bridges, 39 RCC box culverts and 4.53km viaduct. The authority has to acquire 527.09 acres of land for the new line.
Of the estimated cost (Tk 6,114.48 crore), Tk 4,250.56 crore is expected to come from foreign funds, while the rest is to be paid by the government.
A BR official said the nearest rail line in the Indian side from Sonamasjid land port is around 12km from the border.
"If Indian Railway takes initiative to expand it towards the Bangladesh border, Sonamasjid and Mahadipur of West Bengal's Maldah can be another railway interchange between the two neighbouring countries," he said.
Currently five railway interchanges between the two countries are in operation -- Darshana (Bangladesh)-Gede (India), Benapole (Bangladesh)-Petrapole (India), Rohanpur (Bangladesh)-Singhabad (India), Birol (Bangladesh)-Radhikapur (India), and Chilahati (Bangladesh)-Haldibari (India).
Rohanpur is situated in Chapainawabganj.