DHAKA, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- A state-owned Chinese company has signed a 4.44-billion-U.S. dollar agreement to build a railway via Bangladesh's largest Padma bridge.
China Railway Construction Corp. Ltd. (CRCC) signed the official construction contract with the Bangladeshi government on Monday in capital Dhaka.
Zhang Xuecai, deputy general manager of China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group CO. LTD (CREEC) and Amzad Hossain, director general of Bangladesh Railway, singed the agreement on behalf of their respective sides.
Last month, the Bangladeshi government gave the final go-ahead to the Chinese company to start construction of the 215 km-long Padma rail link from capital Dhaka to Jessore district, 164 km away from capital Dhaka.
CREEC was commissioned to construct the railroad for 247.49 billion taka (3.14 billion U.S. dollars)Construction is scheduled to be completed by June 30, 2022.
The total project cost would be met through China's government soft loan and from the government's own funds.
The rail link project also includes construction of 66 main bridges, 244 minor bridges, 14 new rail stations and procurement of 100 passenger coaches, according to the proposal from Bangladesh's railway ministry.
It said trains will travel at a maximum speed of 120 km per hour on the link. The project will be built under the Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) project aimed at creating an integrated freight railway network across Europe and Asia.
This is also reportedly a project of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Unescap).
The Padma bridge will be double-decker with a four-lane road on the upper deck and a broad gauge single railway track on the lower deck.
A portion of the rail line reportedly will be up and running by 2018, when the Bangladeshi government presents the much-publicized infrastructure project to the public, as the Padma bridge can be used by both road and rail.
In December last year, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the main works of the country's biggest Padma Bridge project by unveiling its foundation plaque.
Prior to the inauguration of the main bridge's construction works, she unveiled the plaque of the river training works, the second most costly component of the 3-billion-U.S. dollar project conducted by one of the largest international companies, Sinohydro Corporation Limited.
Hasina said the bridge will shorten travel time between capital Dhaka and the country's southern region, boosting entire trade and economic activities.
Experts say the bridge when it comes into operation in 2018 will ease pressure on the country's premier seaport in Chittagong, 242 km southeast of capital Dhaka, as it will bolster the second largest Mongla seaport in Bagerhat district, 178 km southwest of the capital city.
In June 2014, the Bangladeshi government awarded China Major Bridge Engineering Company Limited a 1.55-billion-U.S. dollar contract to build core structure of the Padma Bridge project which is to be completed in four years.
The 25-meter-wide and 10-km-long bridge will be built over Padma River, one of the three major rivers in Bangladesh.
About 6.15 km of the bridge is being built over the river while the remaining part on both banks. Apart from connecting nearly 30 million people in Bangladesh's southwest region to the rest of the country, the bridge will enhance regional trade and collaboration along the Asian highway No. 1 and the Trans-Asian railway network.
The bridge is among the six projects that are under direct supervision of the Fast Track Project Monitoring Committee headed by Hasina.