Dhaka : The inauguration of the new 100-kilometre long railway line from Dohazari to Cox's Bazar, on November 11, established the first ever rail connectivity from Dhaka and Chattogram to Bangladesh's southeast coast. The new development is expected to usher in a new era of tourism, trade and connectivity for the region.The opening of the new oyster-shaped railway station in Hajipara of Jhelongja union of Cox's Bazar is part of the government's efforts to develop the region and attract investment. The new rail line is aimed at reducing travel time between Cox's Bazar and other parts of the country, making it easier and more affordable for tourists and business travellers to visit the region.
"The government is eyeing to introduce Wi-Fi internet connection on trains and there are further plans to establish rail connectivity between Cox's Bazar and major parts of the country," said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during the opening of the new rail line by unveiling a plaque at the newly constructed rail station in Cox's Bazar.
Industry insiders believe Cox's Bazar and Chattogram are emerging as the business hubs of South Asia, thanks to investments in railways, logistics, air connectivity and roads. The region has already become an attractive destination for investors from various countries, including Japan, China and India.
Industry stakeholders believe the new rail link will facilitate agricultural production and fishing, along with connection to megaprojects that are crucial for industries and export-import operations.
At the station, the main building's ground floor houses ticket counters, reception rooms, lockers, information centres, mosques, children's entertainment areas, passenger lounges and footbridges. The second floor accommodates shopping malls, childcare centres, and restaurants. The third floor boasts a 39-room star hotel, while the fourth floor houses a restaurant, childcare centre, conference hall, and officers' offices.
As many as 46,000 people can travel through this station a day and tourists can spend time at the beach by keeping their luggage in the station lockers.
The commercial operations will begin from December 1, 2023, with two intercity trains initially from Dhaka and Chattogram to Cox's Bazar respectively. From Dhaka, the train will take approximately 8 hours and 10 minutes to reach Cox's Bazar with stopping at two stations-Dhaka airport and Chattogram. The train will leave Dhaka at 10:30 pm and reach Cox's Bazar at 6:40 am while it will leave Cox's Bazar at 1:00 pm and will reach Dhaka at 9:10 pm.
The new rail station at Cox's Bazar to be operational from December 1
With the opening of the new rail link, Cox's Bazar is now accessible by rail from Dhaka and Chattogram at half the cost of a bus ride. The fare for a non-AC Shovan chair from Dhaka to Cox's Bazar is BDT 345 while the fare for an AC chair is BDT 656.
New travel trade era incoming
The railway line, constructed at a cost of over BDT 18,000 crore, is anticipated to transform the economic landscape of the region as well as to bring radical changes to its business, industry and tourism industries. Already, about 77 projects, including 25 mega projects, with a total investment of BDT 3 lac crore, are underway in Cox's Bazar.
In the coming days, the government is planning to establish a railway line with China through Myanmar and land transits with India through Chattogram and Ramgarh land port as well as with South Asian countries by connecting Bangladesh with the trans-Asian railway network.
"This railway line is supposed to extend up to Ghumdhum....The development of this railway is in line with that plan," informed the Prime Minister while addressing the inauguration ceremony of the new rail link.
The government's development projects in Cox's Bazar and Teknaf will further boost rail tourism. Around 60-70 lac tourists, mostly domestic, visit Cox's Bazar annually and with the new connectivity efforts, the number is expected to rise further.
The government is developing Sabrang in Teknaf, Naf and Sonadia Island in Maheshkhali and the country's first island-based tourism economic zone to attract foreign tourists. The Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority signed a land lease agreement with Singapore-based Inter Asia Group to establish the Sabrang Tourism Park.
Cox's Bazar International Airport will further allow tourists, traders and investors from around the world to fly directly to and from Cox's Bazar. The runway is being extended by 1,700 feet over the sea to meet international standards. Once completed, the airport will be able to accommodate all types of international flights and aircraft.
Matarbari deep-sea port
The Prime Minister expressed, in the future, the Chattogram-Cox's Bazar railway line will be connected with the currently under-construction Matarbari deep-sea port.
Construction of the Matarbari deep-sea port, in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency, began in 2016. It is expected to start loading mother vessels in 2026. The Matarbari deep-sea port will play a vital role in South Asian trade with ASEAN countries, as per reports.