Huge UK funds wait for high-speed trains

Huge foreign investment is waiting for the country’s railways sector.  Some UK- based companies are interested in installing electric lines for the upcoming high-speed train projects, which are already on the cards, sources said.

Official sources said a UK-based company, backed by 10 other foreign companies, has proposed to invest 12 billion US dollars in three phases.

According to sources, in its proposal to the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), the company is interested to construct a double track electric railway line from Payra Port to Dhaka via Bhanga in the first phase for the transportation of containers and other goods.

In the second phase, the foreign companies are interested to construct a new high-speed passenger train service from the  capital city of  Dhaka to the under- construction Padma Multipurpose Bridge and another service from Dhaka to Matarbari Port via Chattogram. And, in the third phase, they want to expand the passenger railway service from Chattogram to Cox's Bazar.

The company has also proposed to set up an LNG-based power plant to provide uninterrupted power supply for the operation of electric railways.

According to officials concerned, the UK based company offered the investment in  the country’s railway sector when the Bangladesh government has plans to bring all the 64 districts under the railway network.

Earlier, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina instructed undertaking a new project for railways which will include 160 km per hour or high speed electric train service. 

Sources said, in this  context, the UK-based company IM Power has proposed an investment project to build electric railway infrastructure.

Md Sirajul Islam, Executive Chairman of the BIDA, said such projects require a lot of information in verification and selection. The investment proposal is still under scrutiny. 

“We think that the project will have a big positive impact to attract other foreign investments in the country,” said the BIDA Executive Chairman.

Talking about the proposal, Railway Minister Nurul Islam Sujan said the Economic Relations Division (ERD) usually looks into the issue of investment. Besides, there is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) policy to encourage foreign investment in Bangladesh. 

"On returning from China last year, I informed the Prime Minister on whether the new railways could have electric traction. But, it costs a lot of money. Besides, it requires uninterrupted power to run electric trains as well as underground cable connection as the cable on the ground is not safe when it rains or storms,” said the Railway Minister.

He said that all of these are required to run electric trains. 

"We are encouraging foreign investment under the PPP policy. We are also getting adequate responses. We are ready to implement any project if the government decides in principle,” said the Railway Minister.

Sources said that the IM Power PLC, a UK-based power and infrastructure based company, proposed a project titled 'Integrated Rail and Energy Project' in Bangladesh in the last half of 2019 . The company is also operating in the UK, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.