The Bangladesh Railway (BR) has failed to start any work on two projects in five years due to complex approval process by the lender of the Indian Line of Credit (LoC), insiders said on Saturday.
Officials involved with the projects said the Indian approval authority, EXIM Bank, had taken some three years to give concurrence of appointing Indian consultants for both the projects affecting the executions.
Failing to start the project work, the state-run BR had sought time extension from the Planning Commission (PC).
BR officials told the FE that they had now sought one year time extension of the projects for appointing consultant in a bid to complete the feasibility study and detailed design. Then they would seek revision of the project where two more years might be taken for completion of the entire work, they said.
In 2017, the BR under the US$ 2.0 billion LoC undertook the Khulna-Darshana double line railway track installation project at a cost of Tk 35.07 billion and the Upgradation of Parbatipur-Kaunia metre-gauge into dual-gauge railway track project at Tk 16.82 billion cost.
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved both the projects in 2018 for completing railway track installation and upgradation works by December this year.
However, the BR had failed to start any physical work in five years although their completion deadline is set to end in December 2022.
According to the Development Project Proposal (DPP), the BR will construct a 126.25-km double line from Khulna to Darshana, Bangladesh's frontier area with India, to set up a cross-border transportation system.
Besides, the BR will upgrade 67 kilometres of MG rail line into dual-gauge aimed at setting up a regional railway line to be connected with India, Nepal and Bhutan.
A senior BR official said they are yet to start the projects' works due to the complexity in the consultant selection process.
On the other hand, the project authority has conducted Project Steering Committee meeting without arranging any Project Implementation Committee meeting in the last five years' period which is a violation of the government's project implementation rules, insider said.
BR officials said they had invited Expression of Interest (EoI) from Indian consultants in May 2018 for the feasibility study and detailed design for both the projects.
But the tenders were cancelled as the bids were submitted by only two firms. The BR again invited tenders in October 2018 and shortlisted three firms.
When the shortlisted companies were sent to the Indian state-owned EXIM Bank for approval, the lender did not approve those.
Then the BR drafted a re-tender document for the 3rd time in February 2019 and sent that to the Indian EXIM Bank in May 2019 for getting nod. But the EXIM Bank gave concurrence after long-eight months in January 2020 on the draft tender.
The BR then again sought EOI from the Indian consulting firms in February 2020. It selected five firms and sent it again to get green signal from the Indian lender.
This time the EXIM bank wasted seven months to give its concurrence, a Railway official said.
"In August this year, we had signed deals with the consultants to complete the feasibility study and detailed design for the railway track installation and upgradation projects," the official said.
"Since the complex procedure in getting concurrence for appointing the consultants from the lender had eaten up a huge time, now we need to complete the detailed design first. Based on the design, we will appoint contractors for the railway track construction works," he said, adding "For this reason, we have sought one more year time extension for both the projects."
In the meantime, the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) has asked the BR to describe the reasons for the delays and details information in this regard.
"We have sought the information from the BR. Then we will scrutinise the reasons before giving approval of the time extension proposals," said a senior IMED official.