Chinese contractor CREC claimed that the progress of the project was being hampered due to delays in payments
The Railways Ministry has dismissed allegations made by China Railway Group Ltd (CREC), the contractor for the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project (PBRLP), that a fund crisis had slowed down the implementation of the project, saying the latter had never broached the issue of pending payments to the authority.
“We are the authority that will respond to any allegations brought by the contractor. However, CREC has yet to inform us of any delays in payments. If such an issue truly exists, they must inform us, not the media,” said Railways Minister Md Nurul Islam Sujan.
“Besides, CREC has told the project director that it did not issue any press release regarding any fund crisis related to the project,” the minister told reporters on Thursday.
However, on Wednesday, a public relations agency appointed by CREC sent a press release to several media houses, stating that the progress of the PBRLP was being hampered due to delays in payments.
CREC in the statement alleged that it had only received the mobilization payment at the end of June 2018, and owing to some internal matters of the Bangladesh Railway, it had not received any further payments until September 2020.
During the period, CREC had to borrow large amounts of commercial loans from banks to continue implementing the project. Consequently, the pace of the construction work of the project had been getting slower.
CREC said the total amount of pending payment was around $400 million.
The Bangladesh government had set a target of opening both rail and road on the Padma Bridge on the same day, according to CREC. However, the fund crisis seems to have emerged as an obstacle to the completion of the construction process.
To have the matter clarified, Dhaka Tribune tried to contact CREC through the PR agency, but CREC declined to comment on the issue.
The deadline for the 68km-long rail link between Dhaka and Jessore has been set for December 2024.
The Bangladesh Railway stated that more than 35% of the construction work had already been completed.
Besides, taking into account that the Mawa-Bhanga section of the project was scheduled to be opened during the inauguration of the Padma Bridge, over 50% of the construction work of that part had been completed, the state-owned rail transport agency said.
Meanwhile, CREC said it could not procure adequate construction materials and pay subcontractors and suppliers in a timely manner, resulting in the deceleration in project implementation. The costs were also increasing day by day, it mentioned in its media release.
On the other hand, Railways Minister Sujan said: “The project is being executed under the government-to-government (G2G) initiative with China. Payment processing takes some time due to the involvement of a consultant company.”
Even if there was any delay, it was nothing to worry about as payments would be made eventually, he held out the assurance.
CREC also claimed that the Bangladesh Railway was supposed to buy 100 coaches by June 2021, but the authorities had yet to begin the purchasing process.
Denying the assertion, the railways minister said the project deadline had been set for the end of 2024 and the coaches would be procured by that time.