Bangladesh signed earlier this month a nearly 3-billion-U.S. dollar loan deal with China’s Exim Bank to construct the Padma Bridge rail link project.
The project, when finished, will diminish the traveling time from Dhaka to Kolkata, the capital of Indian state of West Bengal, by about five hours.
Bangladeshi Railway Minister Mujibul Haque said the construction work of the Padma Bridge rail link will commence in a month.
Once the rail link, which will pass via the 6.15-km long Padma Bridge, is completed, it will take just about three hours to go from the capital city of Dhaka to the southern city of Khulna.
Currently, the traveling time between the two places with a distance of 412 km is more than nine hours and once the project is completed, the distance would be reduced to 213 km.
On the other hand, the rail link is also an important part of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM), another key pathway of the Belt and Road Initiative. Once completed, the BCIM corridor will be able to link Kolkata with Kunming in southwestern China’s Yunnan province.
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The idea of constructing the long-awaited corridor began to turn into reality in December 2015, when Bangladeshi Prime Minister Hasina announced to start the construction work of the Padma Bridge project.
The multipurpose road-rail bridge, which is being built by a Chinese company, is the largest and most challenging infrastructure project in the country’s history.
When it comes into operation, the bridge will ease pressure on the country’s premier seaport in Chittagong, 242 km southeast of Dhaka, as it will bolster the second largest Mongla seaport in the Bagerhat district, 178 km southwest of the capital city.
In June 2014, the Bangladeshi government signed a 1.55 billion US dollar contract with China Major Bridge Engineering Company, who undertook the task of building the core structure of the Padma Bridge project, which is scheduled to be completed in four years.
The bridge, which will significantly reduce the travelling time between the capital and the districts in the country’s southernmost region from the current 13 hours to only about three hours, is expected to basically facilitate Bangladesh’s trade and overall economy and as indicated in a World Bank report, to possibly end the country’s extreme poverty by 2030.
Railway Minister Haque said the implementation of the project would bring great momentum to Bangladesh’s economic growth, with its GDP expected to increase by 1 percent in the four years of construction.
Due to its strategic location between China and India, Bangladesh is well placed to become a trading and manufacturing hub.
The Padma Bridge and its rail link, when completed, will become one of Bangladesh’s major transport corridors linking Dhaka to the country’s southern and western regions, as well as linking Bangladesh with India, Nepal and Bhutan.
It was reported that the rail link, Bangladesh’s biggest project so far, is being built by China Railway Engineering Corporation, another Chinese firm.
The deepening cooperation between the two countries is well indicative of China’s steadily growing economy, rapidly increasing technical strength and rising global influence in both economy and politics, which has made the world’s second largest economy an attractive partner in various aspects for almost all other countries across the world.