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Hopes high for high-speed train

| Updated: August 29, 2021 16:39:00

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Hope removes hype as a latest move now advances towards developing the fastest rail corridor on Dhaka-Chattogram-Cox's Bazar route to run high-speed trains, officials say.

The Dhaka-Chattogram mainline connecting the capital and the port city already getting into the phase of designing, Bangladesh Railway (BR) has now moved for feasibility study on introduction of high- speed train between Chattogram and Cox's Bazar where lies world's longest unbroken sea beach.

Sources said the latest major move in the communications sector follows up on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's directive to the BR to work for introducing high-speed train on the Dhaka-Chattogram-Cox's Bazar route.

They said the direction came during a meeting of the country's highest economic policymaking body, ECNEC, on March 05, 2019.

Bangladesh Railway already held meetings to finalise a study proposal to get approval from the Planning Commission.

As the BR has already completed the feasibility study on the Dhaka-Chattogram part, the new study will help link the train up to Cox's Bazar, known as the city of tourism, the officials said.

They said economic importance of Cox's Bazar has been increasing due to government's plan to develop the district as a trade hub apart from its status as tourist city as a seaport as well as a power hub at Matarbari are being built there.

"Shorter travel time by around four to six hours from Dhaka to Cox's Bazar after the introduction of high-speed train will certainly uplift trade activities with foreign countries," said one official about importance of the fast rail transit to the maritime frontier on the Bay of Bengal.

The BR conducted feasibility study on the Dhaka-Chattogram corridor after the planning commission had approved it on March 18, 2017. The study has already been completed, showing the venture financially and economically viable. Detailed design work is now ongoing.

However, there is a word critical about the longitude of the route and the speed of the train. Critics say for high-speed train along only 227.0-kilometre corridor "an extraordinary spending of more than US$11 billion cannot be considered viable as the trains with high speeds of up to 300 kms per hour cannot even take its due speed within this stretch".

They also argue that developing the planned cord line between Dhaka and Laksam which is to shorten the existing Dhaka-Chattogram rail corridor significantly will enable the BR to operate trains in two hours by investing only $ 2.0 billion.

The FS report has proposed establishing the corridor with a length of 227.3 kms with six stoppage stations. It estimated the cost to be $11.11 billion, showing that the travel time will be cut to 73 minutes with the stoppages and 55 minutes without stoppage. The new-generation train will run at 300 kmph, carrying 50,000 passengers daily.

Sources said two Chinese companies have already shown interest in constructing the corridor forming a joint-venture company. China is seen as a pioneer in high-speed train technology, and runs train at speeds higher than 300km per hour.

However, the BR officials said the new study is to prove the necessity of high-speed train up to Cox's Bazar.

They expect passengers on the corridor are likely to grow due to having it under regional corridor and they will prefer travelling by high-speed trains due to much shorter travel time.

The officials also said the existing rail corridor which is now being developed to double-line dual-gauge track would then be utilized as freight/goods train services if the passengers switch to high-speed trains.

The study proposal has been prepared to find out the project's viability economically and financially by conducting various surveys.

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