The much-vaunted Padma Bridge project is once again fated to miss its construction deadline.
The Chinese firm, China Major Bridge Engineering (CMBE), was given until December 2019 to complete the work on the 6.15-kilometre road-cum-rail bridge over the river Padma.
Sources said the firm of late sought two and a half years more for completion of the project citing various reasons.
The construction supervision consultant (CSC) is now evaluating the prayer for time extension by assessing the volume of work remaining pending, according to the sources.
The government earlier extended the deadline for completing the work on the much-talked-about Padma Bridge to December 2018. But then it again extended the deadline to December 2019 failing to achieve due progress in the project work.
However, economists apprehended that the time extension might push up the project cost further.
The cost of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project (PMBP) has already been raised to Tk 301 billion (30,100 crore) from Tk 288 billion.
Project Director M Shafiqul Islam said the contractor's prayer for time extension is very usual.
Whenever pressure is put on the contractor to speed up the work, a plea for time extension is placed, he added.
"We are now assessing the time extension prayer to understand how much logical the demand is," he told the FE at his office.
The PMBP work had already been behind the schedule due to a major problem with designing its 14 piers with the CMBE starting the construction work in December 2014.
Though the problem with the design was recently solved, sources said, the contractor could not speed up the process of construction. They have revised the work plan on four occasions.
Under the latest revised plan, the overall progress in work was recorded at 66 per cent in March. The contractors working on the main bridge and river training were able to clock only one or two per cent progress per month during the last couple of months.
The graph on the work progress is still a flat line, though it should gather momentum ahead of the December deadline, according to the sources.
Sources said completing the project still remained a big task. Only 11 spans out of 42 were so far set up.
They said the work on piers was also running behind the schedule due to changes in their design. Only twenty-one piers out of 40 are now ready.
On the other hand, no work started on four piers mainly on the Mawa side due to the turbulent current in the river.
Sources concerned say making a span ready takes at least one month. The spans are made outside the country and then assembled in the country later on.
The span cannot be kept ready due to lack of space at the construction site.
"We have to bring the spans one by one and then assemble them when a pier is fully ready," said an engineer preferring not to be named.
Installing the remaining spans on piers will take more than one year, if the crane number is raised. The project office has already asked the Chinese contractor to raise the number of cranes.
Sources said the other Chinese company Sino Hydro was also lagging behind with the river training work.
As no step has yet been taken to shift the Kathalbari ferry terminal, they cannot start work on the Jajira side.
The work on placing decks for both the road and railway portions of the Padma Bridge will start after construction of the main structure.
The CMBE was able to complete 192 road slabs and 435 railway slabs out of 20,917 road slabs and 209,592 railway slabs.
However, construction of the approach roads on both sides of the Padma Bridge has already been completed.
Due to slow progress in the overall work, the Bangladesh Bridge Authority, the executing agency of the costly project, sought Tk 26.56 billion in allocation, 40 per cent less than Tk 43.95 billion in the original Annual Development Programme (ADP).
Initially the estimated cost of Tk 205.07 billion was approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) in 2011. But the estimation went up later due to delay on different occasions.
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