Bangladesh authorities are set to start negotiation with Germany for funding the crucial rail track project connecting Panchagarh with Banglabandha, the northern tip on Indian border.
The Bangladesh Railway recently sent a letter to the ERD for taking necessary steps to evaluate a proposal of German consortium BJN-Vossloh JV which proposed to construct the 48-kilometre railway track at a cost of 450 million euro to be funded by German concessional loan, highly placed sources at the concerned ministries confirmed the FE.
The design of the dual-gauge rail line was approved in 2020 but the project could not be started due to lack of funding.
Nepal is only 61-km from Banglabandha Land Port, Bhutan is only 68 km off and China border is little over 200 km so the proposed track would help enhancing connectivity among these four countries, officials said.
In a letter to the Railway Minister, the German Ambassador in Dhaka said that 'the German consortium consisting of the companies Vossloh and BJN is planning an extension of the existing rail route from Panchagarh to Banglabandha'.
The letter also said that the KfW Development Bank of Germany has already provided the letter of intent for providing export credit guarantees for the project worth 50 million euro.
The GIZ, economic and commercial wing of the German government, also conveyed the same through a letter to the Bangladesh government saying that official export credit agency of Germany, Euler Harmes AG, will provide long term credit guarantee for funding of the project.
According to the German proposal, 85 per cent of the cost will be provided by concessional loan and the rest has to be funded by the government.
Bangladesh Railway officials said once implemented, the project would boost regional connectivity as presently India, Bhutan and Nepal are connected with Bangladesh via Banglabandha port through roads.
The rail track will create the opportunity for train communication with India, Nepal and Bhutan, they said,
adding that in 2018, the BR took up a project titled "Study for Important Projects of West Zone" for carrying out feasibility study and prepare alignments for three rail lines and a rail bridge in the railway's western zone.
The government formally opened Banglabandha land port in May 2004. Trade between Bangladesh-India through the Banglabandha-Phulbari (in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal) border began in January 2011.
The port is being used for goods transported among Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in November 2015 directed the Railway Ministry to build rail line between Panchagarh and Banglabandha.
Both Bangladesh and Indian governments have plan to resume the eight railway interchanges between the two countries which was operational during the British rule (pre-partition era).
Out of the eight, five interchanges -- Benapole-Petrapole, Darshana-Gede, Rohanpur-Singabadh, Chilahati-Haldibari and Biral-Radhikarpur -- are now operational.
Projects have already started to revive Shahbajpur-Mahishasan rail route and rail link between Akhaura-Agartala is now under-construction.