Kalughat Bridge

Kalurghat Bridge undergoing renovation, ferries arranged for commuters @ Dhaka Tribune on July 23, 2023

Bangladesh Railway is renovating the 92-year-old Kalurghat Bridge over the Karnaphuli River in Chittagong. Authorities have taken initiatives to strengthen the bridge before the start of train movement on the Dohazari-Cox’s Bazar route.

Renovations may take more than three months to complete. During this time, train and vehicle movement through the bridge will remain halted. Three ferries have been kept ready for the crossing of vehicles. However, it may take a few more days to start the renovation work, said the project officials.

The Roads and Highways Department officially inaugurated the ferry service on Friday. Necessary manpower has been recruited for ferry operation and maintenance. However, the ferry service had not started as of Saturday evening.

Meanwhile, officials are planning to complete the construction of the Dohazari-Cox’s Bazar railway line by September. The project is progressing accordingly.

According to railway sources, the renovation process of the bridge is starting at a cost of Tk55 crore. A contractor has already been appointed. The renovation is being done as per the recommendations of a Bangladesh University of Engineering (Buet) consulting team.

At present, 10-ton locomotives move on the Chittagong-Dohazari railway line through the bridge. The maximum speed while crossing the bridge is 10kmph. However, the weight of the engine going to Cox’s Bazar will be 12-15 tons and the speed of the trains will be 80-100kmph. Due to this reason, without the renovation, the Dohazari-Cox’s Bazar rail link would not benefit.

An executive engineer at the Roads and Highways Department, Pintu Chakma, stated that the ferry service would continue throughout the bridge renovation. Three ferries have already been prepared for service, and vehicle fees for ferry crossings have been determined. However, the actual start date of the ferry service depends on the commencement of the bridge renovation work.

He said: “The ferry service was officially inaugurated on Friday. Three ferries are ready. However, we do not know when the renovation of the bridge will start.”

Engineers said that earlier on August 13, 2004, major renovation work was done on this bridge at a cost of Tk10 crore. Then another round of reforms was made in 2012. At present, 10-ton locomotives ply the Chittagong-Dohazari railway line run over the bridge. At this time the maximum speed is 10kmph.

However, the engine weight of Cox’s Bazar bound train will be 12-15 tons. The maximum train speed is 80-100kmph. Due to the current condition of the Kalurghat bridge, it will not be possible to run the train at this speed. There is a plan to run trains at a speed of at least 40-50kmph. For this, the bridge is being renovated as per the advice of Buet’s consulting team.

In this context, General Manager (GM) of Bangladesh Railway East Zone Md Jahangir Hossain said: “A contractor has been appointed for the renovation of the Kalurghat railway bridge. The renovation work was supposed to start this month. But it has not started yet. We have not yet been informed of the date when the renovation work will start. The contractor has started the work of bringing the necessary goods. Hopefully, the work will start soon.”

Sujan Chowdhury, chief land officer of East Zone, stated that the contractor projects the renovation work to take six months, but an earlier deadline has been set for completion. He assured that the work would be completed accordingly.

Mofizur Rahman, director of the Dohazari-Ramu-Cox’s Bazar railway project, said: “We are thinking of starting the train movement by completing the ongoing work of the Dohazari-Cox’s Bazar railway line by September.”

He said: “Out of 100km, 82km of the railway line has been completed. Project progress is 86%. The work of small and big bridge-culvert on the railway line has also been completed. Now the mechanical work is going on.”

Md Nizam Uddin, sub-divisional engineer at the Roads and Highways Department, said: “Three ferries have been kept ready under the Kalurghat bridge. The ferries will be operational as soon as the renovation work starts.”

On April 3, 2011, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina laid the foundation stone for the construction of meter-gauge railways up to Dohazari-Ramu-Cox’s Bazar and Ramu-Ghumdhum, which include 88km from Chittagong’s Dohazari to Ramu and 12km from Ramu to Cox’s Bazar.

The construction of the dual-gauge and single-track railway project started in 2018, almost seven years after the inauguration by the prime minister. The cost of construction of the 100km railway line from Dohazari to Cox’s Bazar Ramu is estimated at Tk1,852 crores. In 2016, after revising the project proposal, the cost increased to Tk18,34.47 crore. It was financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the government of Bangladesh.

According to railway sources, in 1931 the Kalurghat Bridge was built on the Karnaphuli River by a bridge construction company named Brunick & Company. The bridge was built after World War I for direct a rail link with Myanmar. However, later, this railway line ended up to Dohazari.

The 638-metre Kalurghat Bridge was identified as vulnerable in 2001, leading to renovations carried out in two phases in 2004 and 2012 by railway authorities. However, despite these efforts, the condition of the bridge remains dilapidated. The bridge serves not only trains but also vehicles travelling to Boalkhali and Patia in south Chittagong. Due to its single-lane nature, road traffic must come to a halt whenever a train passes, causing frequent traffic jams and inconveniences for passengers and drivers.

Souce : Dhaka Tribune

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