Dhaka: Bangladesh on Tuesday said it is planning to build a railroad up to the Burmese border by 2014, at a cost of 18.52 billion taka, with aims to provide a corridor for the proposed Trans-Asian Railway and to connect to China through Burma.
The statement was made during a press briefing by AK Khandker, Planning Minister, after a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council that was chaired by Prime Minister Sheik Hasina.
"The committee has approved an 18.25 billion taka project to construct a single-track rail route from Chittagong to Gongdoon on the [Burmese] border. The rail route is especially aimed at providing a corridor for the Trans-Asian Railway as well as building up communications with China," the minister told the press after the meeting.
The proposed railroad will be a 128-kilometer long, single-track meter gauge, and construction is set to begin sometime this month.
Bangladesh signed as agreement to join the Trans-Asian Railway network in November 2007, after a three-year feasibility study conducted from 1999 to 2001 found connecting to the network would be beneficial.
By connecting to the Trans-Asian Railway, which will also be part of a trans-continental rail network, Bangladesh will be able to link with Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Singapore through Burma, as well as with Europe through Turkey.
Bangladesh is also keen on using the proposed Chittagong-Gongdoon rail track to connect with China's Kunming through Burma.
Premier Sheik Hasina had also raised the issue of Chittagong-Kunming road and rail links during her recent official visit to China as significant steps in boosting bilateral ties between the two countries.
According to a senior official from the Bangladesh Communications Ministry, it is quite feasible for Bangladesh to construct the rail link with China by crossing Burma, as much of the railway network currently exists, despite some significant gaps.
A railroad was constructed between Chittagong and Sittwe after a complete feasibility study by the Burmese railway authority from 1917 to 1919, during British colonial rule, but it could not be completed due to the breakout of World War II.
In Chittagong District in Bangladesh and in Maungdaw Township in western Burmaâ€™s Arakan State there are some partial rail tracks that are still being found that had been constructed for the then proposed Chittagong-Sittwe rail line.'
The official said Bangladesh is seeking cooperation from China and Burma for implementation of the proposed tri-nation railway network that would also be part of the Trans-Asian Railway, by renovating the existing old tracks and connecting the newly constructed tracks through Burma.
The proposed 14,000 kilometer Trans-Asian Railway was initiated by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in the 1960's, with the primary purpose of providing a conduit through which trains could pass without interruption between Asia and Europe.
By 2001, four corridors provided for the project had been closely examined. Of those four, the southern corridor runs from Europe to Southeast Asia, connecting Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Burma, and Thailand, with links to China's Yunnan Province and Singapore via Malaysia.
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