A month after joint inauguration by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, the Khulna-Mongla rail line still awaits commencement of train operations.
The 65 km route from Khulna to Mongla port in Bagerhat was expected to enhance goods transportation significantly.
The railway line was anticipated to facilitate the cost-effective movement of goods from Mongla port within Bangladesh and support international trade with neighboring countries India, Nepal, and Bhutan – thereby boosting regional economic development.
Despite high expectations, train services are yet to start on this newly built track. The exact date for the commencement of train operations remains uncertain, as authorities are still finalizing details.
According to a railway official, who requested anonymity, the line includes eight newly-constructed stations, which currently lack necessary furnishings. Additionally, staffing for these stations and railway crossings has not been completed.
The installation of telecommunication and signaling systems along the track is still incomplete. Furthermore, critical details such as the number of trains, their schedules, and ticket fares are pending decisions.
Ahmed Hossain Masum, chief engineer of the project, acknowledged that while the Khulna-Mongla rail line is technically ready for operations, they are in the process of completing the final preparations. The initial focus of the railway will be on freight transportation. However, a specific date for beginning operations is not yet determined.
The construction of the Khulna-Mongla rail line, which began in September 2016, was executed by two Indian firms, Larsen & Toubro and Ircon International. The project, costing Tk 4,260 crore, was financed by a credit line from India.
The project also includes a 5.13 km bridge over the Rupsha river and nine underpasses, which eliminate the need for train stops at crossings and enhance safety.
Mofidul Islam Tutul, director of the Khulna Chamber of Commerce, expressed eagerness for the train operations to start, emphasizing the potential for increased dynamism at Mongla port and improved travel convenience. The railway is also expected to attract tourists to the Sundarbans.
Rear Admiral Mir Ershad Ali, chairman of the Mongla Port Authority, noted that both the Padma Bridge and the Khulna-Mongla rail link will significantly benefit Mongla port. He highlighted the railway’s role in streamlining container transport between Mongla and Dhaka, particularly benefiting northern regions, and increasing the movement of import-export goods, thereby boosting port activities.