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Feature: Chinese workers sacrifice Spring Festival for timely completion of Bangladesh's largest BRI rail project

Updated: February 1, 2023 Source: Xinhua News Agency
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DHAKA, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- The 172 km Padma Bridge Rail Link Project (PBRLP) is one of the most significant projects under construction by the China Railway Group Limited (CREC) in Bangladesh.

The PBRLP will pass through the Padma Bridge, which was built by the China Railway Major Bridge Engineering Group Co., Ltd.

The Padma Multipurpose Bridge, the longest in Bangladesh, which opened to traffic in June last year, is located about 40 km southwest of Dhaka, with a total length of 9.8 km and its main bridge is 6.15 km long.

The CREC's more than 11,000 Chinese and Bangladeshi workers, staff members and officials are now working flat out for the timely completion of the mega rail project.

The project's implementation speed remained unhampered despite of the Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, which is the grandest festival in China with a seven-day-long holiday.

Hu Guangming, chief finance officer at the CREC's Dhaka office, told Xinhua recently that the PBRLP in Bangladesh is a significant joint project between China and Bangladesh governments.

He said it is one of the vitally essential projects of the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as the top priority project and the largest railway project in Bangladesh so far.

During the Chinese Spring Festival, the 684th span concrete simple-supported box girder and all viaduct segment box girders of the PBRLP undertaken by CREC were completed, which is a major milestone of the construction progress of the project, he said.

"On behalf of the project Mmanagement office of the PBRLP, I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations and sincere greetings to the staff of the First Division, who sacrificed their Spring Festival holidays and stuck to their posts in Bangladesh at this moment," said Hu.

According to the chief finance officer, more than 1,000 Chinese personnel and more than 10,000 Bangladeshi workers have now been working for the timely completion of the project.

"I wish everyone the best and greetings for the Chinese New Year!" said Hu.

Geng Shucheng is the chief engineer and project director from CREC.

He said the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project includes three viaducts -- V1, V2, and V3, with a total length of 23.4 km.

Viaduct 1 covers a total length of 16.8 km, including 15 spans of 100-meter simple-supported steel trusses. The second viaduct covers a total length of 2.6 km, including one, 80-meter span of simple-supported steel trusses. The length of viaduct 3, meanwhile, is 3 km, Geng explained.

Facing plenty of adverse factors such as a lengthy elevation route, complex terrain, tight deadlines, high safety risks, an unpredictable natural environment, and ongoing COVID-19-linked issues, CREC undertook prefabricating, splicing, and erecting box girder segment technology to complete the PBRLP's viaduct construction, said Geng.

Noor Hussain Mone, a project official who is assigned to look after the welfare of the Bengali workers and staff members, said "Our work is already more than 75 percent done. After a lot of challenges, we are finishing the work nicely."

He said they are pleased to have such a large establishment in Bangladesh.

"The laborers we hired have never worked on such a big project before," said Mone, adding they are happy working and gaining experience on the project. The Chinese nationals who are working on the project are also very happy.

Md Kawsar is a laborer from Rangpur district (about 304 km northwest of Dhaka).

"I've been working here for about three or four months. I'm very happy to work here and I can learn a lot," he said.

Another worker, Md Alamin Miah, who comes from Gaibandha District (around 268 km northwest of Dhaka) said they are working along the Buriganga river.

"I'm happy to work here. It is a very long and extremely tall bridge. We are working as hard as we can and good things are happening," he said.

Foreman Rafiqul Islam, from Gaibandha Sadar, said he has 250 workers under his supervision.

"I work under the Chinese engineers. We're working on this very modern designed bridge. I feel good about this project and my workers are also doing a great job," he said, adding that all involved are being "very well paid."

The employer of the project, Bangladesh Railway, has praised CREC's persistent efforts in the construction of the mega project.

According to Bangladeshi Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan, it will be possible to run trains on one of the Rail Link Project's three sections, from Dhaka to Bhanga in the central Faridpur district, by June 2023.

The section from Dhaka to Jessore, 164 km southwest of Dhaka, will be completed in 2024, the minister said.

Md Afzal Hossain, project director of the rail link project on the Bangladesh side, said this is Bangladesh Railway's biggest-ever project, and it is also the government's fast-track project.

"Although we suffered some setbacks due to COVID-19, our work never stopped. The pandemic is lingering this year, but we're still working," he said.

According to Hossain, the project is being implemented in three sections, from Dhaka to Mawa, from Mawa to Bhanga, and from Bhanga to Jessore.

"At present, our work is in full-swing everywhere, including laying the track," Hossain said.

Editor: Gao Jingyan