- Despite two time extensions to its tenure the project has only progressed 10%
- A visa crisis is preventing some key Indian workers from rejoining work
- Work on the Tk240 crore project started on July 29, 2018 with a duration of 18 months
- The length of Akhaura-Agartala rail link is 10.5km, of which 6.5km is on the Bangladeshi side
- The rail line will connect Agartala's Nischintopur border to Brahmanbaria's Akhaura Gangasagar Railway Station
Work on the Akhaura-Agartala dual gauge railway link project is ongoing at a snail's pace with many workers still refraining to return to work in fear of contracting the novel coronavirus.
The project, which started on July 29, 2018, has progressed just 10% progress despite twice being given time extensions to its tenure, sources said.
Texmaco Rail and Engineering Limited, an Indian company implementing the project, was supposed to complete the work by January 29, 2020 but failed to do so in the stipulated time. Later, the time was extended to May 13 this year.
However, the company was unable to finish it owing to the novel coronavirus shutdown.
That is why the rail link project was again extended to June 2021 upon a request from the implementing company.
After the two-month postponement, the project work resumed on June 1, but is going on slowly as some essential Indian workers–who had returned home during the shutdown–cannot now enter Bangladesh due to visa-related complexities.
In this situation, project insiders are casting doubt over whether the project will be completed within the new timeframe.
On August 9, on a visit to the project site in Gangasagar Railway Station area, it was seen that work on the customs and immigration building, some of the 16 bridges and culverts and land development was going on.
On condition of anonymity, a project engineer said that the project work had remained stopped for two months due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The construction was also hampered during the rainy season. As a result, completing the construction of bridges and culverts will take several more months.
Vaskar Bakshi, project manager of Texmaco Rail and Engineering Limited, told The Business Standard, "Some of our staff went back to India after the novel coronavirus pandemic hit. Some of them have already come back. However, 10-15 workers, including several consultants, have not been able to rejoin yet due to visa-related complexities. We have been trying to get special permission from the ministry concerned to bring them back."
"We have been trying to complete the project within the newly-extended time," he added.
Md Sabuktageen, manager of the Akhaura-Agartala dual gauge railway link (Bangladesh part) project, said, "All the project staff members are from India. Construction materials also come from India. But the customs-immigration process remains stopped due to the pandemic. Considering all this, the project has been extended to June next year."
The government signed a deal with the Indian company on May 21, 2018 to implement the project. The estimated cost of the project amounted to over Tk240 crore. The Indian government has funded the project.
The company started the project on July 29, 2018. The initial time limit of the project was 18 months.
The Akhaura-Agartala rail line's total length is 10.5km, of which 6.5km is on the Bangladeshi side. The rail link will connect the Nischintopur border in Agartala to Brahmanbaria's Akhaura Gangasagar Railway Station.