Country’s first high-speed railway

Quamrul Ahsan
Project Director, Feasibility Study and Detail Design for Construction of Dhaka Chittagong via Commilla/Laksham High Speed Railway Project, BR

For the first time in the history of Bangladesh, high-speed railway is going to be introduced with a view to improve the quality of life and to facilitate the country’s economic development. To provide faster, safer, more comfortable, environment-friendly and attractive communication between Dhaka and Chattogram, Bangladesh Railway has taken a project titled `Feasibility Study and Detail Design for Construction of Dhaka-Chattagram Via Comilla/Laksam High-Speed Railway Project’.

The project was approved by honorable Planning Minister on 18 March 2017 at a cost of BDT 100.5929 Crores under GOB finance. The implementation period of the project was 01 January 2017 to 31 march 2019. After completion of this study project, Development Project Proposal and Bid Documents for the Construction Project of Dhaka-Chattogram High-Speed Railway will be prepared.

The Dhaka-Chattogram High-Speed Railway is expected to be with a route length of 230 km (approximately) with six (06) stations: Dhaka, Narayanganj, Cumilla, Feni, Pahartali and Chattogram.

The High Speed Railway will be passenger dedicated, double track, standard gauge (1435 mm), mostly elevated, ballastless railway with automatic block signaling System. It will be operated through electric traction and the design speed will be 300 km/h.

At present Dhaka-Chattogram railway route is a circuitous way through Tongi-Bhairab Bazar-Brahmanbaria-Cumilla-Chattogram with a route length of 320.79 Km. As the traveling distance between Dhaka and Chattogram is longer than it should be, Bangladesh government has a vision of having a shorter route in this section.

Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina directed Bangladesh Railway to introduce High Speed Railway in Dhaka-Chattogram corridor during his visit to Ministry of Railways on 23.10.2014.Complying the directives of Honourable Prime Minister, Bangladesh Railway has identified a probable shorter route as Dhaka-Cumilla/Laksam-Chattogram. In this new route, the net distance between Dhaka-Chattogram would be around 230 km which will be a reduction of about 90 km than the existing route.
A consultant has been engaged for Feasibility Study and Detail design under the above stated project on 31 May, 2018. Consultancy service will be completed by 03 January 2020.

The proposed feasibility study will determine the viability of construction of high-speed railway between Dhaka-Chattogram. If the project is found economically & financially viable, an investment project would be taken in hand based on the detailed design.

The scopes of the project are: to identify the possible alternative alignments for the project, recommendation for the best possible alignment, find out whether the project will be technically, economically, financially, environmentally and socially viable, preparation of Detail Engineering Design and Drawing of all the structures of the project, preparation of Detail Cost Estimate based on the Detail Engineering Design, preparation of Tender Documents for the upcoming Investment Project, prepare the operational procedure for the construction of Dhaka-Chattogram High-Speed Railway, prepare Initial Environment Examination (IEE) report, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Environmental Management Plan (EMP) and Environmental Monitoring Plan (EMoP) etc., preparation of Land Acquisition Plan and Resettlement Plan, provide an organizational structure to maintain and operate the High-Speed Railway and prepare Terms of Reference (TOR) for construction supervision consultancy services.

The Consultant of Dhaka-Chattogram High Speed Railway has identified four Alignment options and recommended Option-1. Option-1: Dhaka-Narayanganj-Cumilla-Feni-Chattogram (Length 227.3 Km.) Option-2: Dhaka-Narayanganj-Cumilla-Laksam-Feni-Chattogram (Length 232.9 Km.) Option-3: Dhaka-Narayanganj-Baghmara (Cumilla)-Feni-Chattogram (Length 222.8 Km.) Option-4: Dhaka-Narayanganj-Laksam- Feni-Chattogram (Length 220.4 Km.)

Now the main export-import business of our country is carried out through Chattogram port and most of the goods are transported to/from Dhaka to Chattogram. As our trade with foreign countries is growing, the economic importance of Dhaka-Chattogram railway corridor is increasing day by day. Moreover, the government is also planning to establish a power hub and seaport in Matarbari. All these development activities will further enhance the importance of Dhaka- Chattogram corridor.

After construction of Dhaka-Chattogram High-Speed Railway, the speed of the train will be 300km/hr and the travel time from Dhaka to Chattogram (Option-1) will be 55 minutes for non-stop High Speed train and 73 minutes for stopping train. It is estimated that 50,000 passengers (approximately) will be carried daily in this section. Line capacity will be increased and BR will be able to operate more trains in this section.

As a result, dependency and load on road traffic will be reduced. As it will be electric traction double line with total grade separation with roads and access control system, railway passenger transportation in the High- Speed line will be more quick, comfortable, safe, attractive and environment-friendly. By introducing high-speed railway services in such shorter corridor will further increase the competitive edge of national business activities with foreign countries.

The present government has been emphasizing on establishing regional connectivity and on strengthening the sub-regional connectivity, especially the connectivity with India. Construction of Akhaura-Agartala Railway Link to strengthen the railway connectivity between the two countries is in progress.
After completion of the stated project, the number of new passenger and freight/goods trains will increase remarkably. At present, projects are ongoing for double tracking of existing Dhaka-Bhairab-Akhaura-Cumilla-Chattogram Railway Line. After complete doubling of the Dhaka-Chattogram section, the existing train running capacity will be increased to an extent. But track doubling of existing Dhaka-Chattogram section alone will not be sufficient to address the growth of passenger and handling of the fast-growing container at Chattogram port.

After completion of high speed railway, Dhaka-Chattogram passenger trains will be diverted to the high speed railway corridor and the double track of Dhaka-Chattogram corridor would easily cater Sylhet, Mymensingh, and onward bound traffic. As such direct passenger trains between Dhaka-Chattogram through High Speed Railway and export-import freight trains through existing route would get an easy and uninterrupted slot which in turn will culminate remarkable economic growth of the country.