Uncertainty about the location is delaying the project for an inland container depot

As part of a plan initiated nearly two decades ago, Bangladesh Railway intends to build the Inland Container Depot (ICD) on a 154-hectare plot in Dhirasram, Gazipur city.

The railroad had planned to start the $774.56 million project next year after the land acquisition was completed.

But the Planning Commission does not give its approval as it now supports the establishment of the depot in Kaliganj, outside the Gazipur City Corporation area, fearing it would cause traffic chaos in the heavily industrialized city.

Kamalapur has an ICD with a rail link in the heart of the capital, but suffers from container congestion inside and traffic congestion outside.

Once the new project is completed, the operations of this depot will be transferred there, allowing Kamalapur to be transformed into a multi-modal transport hub.

An inland container depot serves as a key hinterland intermediate location where cargo can be stored in transit or prepared for shipment. It is also used for loading and unloading goods.

According to the Planning Commission, it will not be economically viable to construct such a depot in the Gazipur City Corporation area. In addition to the construction of a new railway line to connect to the depot, agricultural land, forest areas and water bodies must be acquired for this purpose.

After an inspection of the Dhirashram site on November 28, 2022, a report prepared by the Planning Commission said that 70% of the country’s garment factories are located in Gazipur and Savar.

As the city continues to grow, the operation of the ICD will inevitably cause congestion. In addition, the construction of a depot in Dhirashram requires the construction of a 7.2 km railway line from Pubail to Dhirashram and the purchase of 78 acres of land, the report said.

However, being located in Kaliganj, there is no need to construct additional tracks as the location is on the Dhaka-Chattogram railway lines which can be connected to the depot. There is also very little agricultural land and no forests or wetlands.

According to the Commission, a U-loop needs to be built on the Dhaka-Bhulta bypass at the entrance and exit of the ICD in Dhirasram. This hinders vehicle traffic on the freeway.

A senior planning commission official, on condition that he wished to remain anonymous, told The Business Standard: “In the area of ​​Gazipur City Corporation, there are many government offices, research institutes and various factories including garment factories.” Only this site in Dhirashram is currently empty. However, the construction of an ICD in the area will be a significant cause of traffic congestion in the city in the future.

“Like BRT project, Dhirashram ICD project will be another bottleneck for Gazipur. For this reason, the Planning Commission has proposed to build the ICD in a different location than Dhirashram.”

He also said that this project could cause great suffering in the future if the right decision is not made at the beginning.

“In light of all of this, the Planning Commission is reconsidering the location of the ICD build. But the final decision will be made after the meeting with the Prime Minister’s Office,” the official added.

Bangladesh Railway has submitted a 3,473 crore Tk land acquisition project proposal to the Planning Commission for ICD construction at Dhirasram awaiting approval.

Rail officials said the Asian Development Bank (ADB) agreed to fund the installation of the original ICD. The railroad had planned to begin construction of the main ICD in 2024 upon completion of the land acquisition.

The surveying work of the project has already been completed. Should the ICD now be relocated to a new location, a new feasibility study must be carried out. This could delay construction of the ICD by another two years, which could ultimately jeopardize the ADB’s availability of credit for that project, officials said.

According to the railroad, of the total cost of $774.56 million, $250 million will be provided in the form of a loan from the ADB, and the government will invest $416.15 million in the project, while a private company – yet to be selected – will contribute the remaining $108 million to build the ICD.

In a press conference on April 4, Planning Department secretary Satyajit Karmaker said the location is very important to reaping economic benefits from the ICD project. Because of this, the project approval process takes some time.

Bangladesh Railway Chief Planning Officer SM Salimullah Bahar said the railway is now awaiting the planning commission’s decision. The ICD site is planned according to the Commission’s decision.

“The Port of Chattogram is in the town of Chattogram. If the ICD is established in the city of Gazipur, the city will be more developed. If it is built along the highway, it will be easier to transport containers by road.”

The planned Dhirasram ICD with a 7.2-meter rail link will be able to carry 4,00,000 TEU (20-foot equivalent units) containers per year, which will bring about massive changes in freight train transportation, he added.

According to the Bangladesh Railway, almost all international containers in Bangladesh are handled in Chattogram Port.

On the other hand, container freight trains carry only 3% of the domestic transport of international containers. Container freight trains only operate between Kamalapur ICD and Chattogram Port.

In 2021, around 3.1 million TEU containers were handled in Chattogram Port. Kamalapur ICD now handles around 90,000 TEU annually, working at or above capacity.

There are currently 19 ICDs in the country.

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