Padma Bridge Rail Link: Expert panel assigned to solve design problem

A panel of experts led by Prof Shamsuzzaman Basunia, chairman of the government’s panel of experts on Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project (PMBP), has been assigned to solve the design-related problem of railways viaducts on both sides of the bridge.

Prof Basunia, a former professor of civil engineering department of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) has already given a draft design to solve the problem and is expected to submit the final draft next week, Belayet Hossain, secretary of bridges division, said.

“The problem has been solved,” he told The Daily Star last night. “A panel of experts from Buet has been given responsibility and the best, among two or three alternative solutions, will be picked,” he said.

The Daily Star could not confirm the matter from the Ministry of Railway’s end.

The development came as top officials of bridges division and railways ministry, and the project, including Belayet Hossain and Railways Ministry’s Secretary Salim Reza visited the project site yesterday. Prof Basunia also accompanied them.

In a major setback, Padma Bridge Rail Link Project (PBRLP) authorities have been asked to change its viaduct designs as the poor clearance of the bridge will impede large lorries on approach roads.

The cabinet division gave the directives recently after the PMBP authorities expressed serious concerns because the designed viaducts for rail use have left too little clearance for tall vehicles that might use the roads underneath.

PMBP said they had objections over the design of viaducts on both sides of the bridge and both the vertical and horizontal limits of the viaducts.

But PBRLP tried to downplay the problem by saying that the deviation has occurred regarding only one pier of the viaduct.

Judging by the international standards for national highways, both the vertical and horizontal clearances are too small, and hence the faulty design should be amended, PMBP authorities said.

PMBP officials said construction of viaducts with the existing vertical limit will hamper movement of heavy lorries or loaded vehicles and the existing horizontal limit will shrink the width of the connecting roads of the country’s longest bridge.

Rail link authorities claimed that the problem regarding vertical clearance actually arose over pier -25(1) and -25(2), and their contractor is redesigning it now. The task will not take more than a month, officials said.

Belayet Hossain, also the executive director of BBA, last night said Prof Basunia has already identified a solution and given a draft design. He also talked with the cabinet secretary, project directors of PBLRP and PMBP, said Belayet adding, “I have also seen the draft design and found it good.”

He [Prof Basunia] will give a design and Railway will implement it,” Belayet said.

Asked whether PBLRP or Bangladesh Railway has given consent to the proposal, Belayet said, “He [Prof Basunia] has also talked with them and us. Decision has been taken like this [according to the draft].”

Contacted, PBRLP Director Golam Fakhruddin Ahmed Chowdhury said, “We are working now. We will give comments after completing the works. Won’t give any comment now.”

This correspondent could not reach Railway Ministry’s secretary over phone after repeated attempts and text messages.

Both PMBP and PBRLP are fast-track projects.

Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) is implementing the much-hyped PMBP at a cost of Tk 30,193 crore to connect the country’s southwestern region with the capital via road and rail lines.

On the other hand, Bangladesh Railway is implementing “Padma Bridge Rail Link Project” to connect the capital with Jashore with a 169km rail line over the under-construction Padma bridge at a cost of Tk 39,246 crore.

The trains will use the lower deck of the 6.15km double-deck bridge and vehicles will use the road above.

But because rail tracks require much longer slopes than roads do, the rail lines will pass over the connecting roads on either side of the bridge.

And at the point, where the rail viaducts would be constructed over the roads, the standard clearance between the road and the lowest part of the viaduct should be 5.7 metres, so that all types of vehicles can operate smoothly.

Besides, a national highway needs to have a standard horizontal limit of 15.5 metres, officials said.

“But, their [PBRLP] vertical and horizontal limits are shorter than what is needed on the national highway on both sides of the bridge,” PMBP Director Shafiqul Islam told The Daily Star on Tuesday.