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Bangladeshi bridge team faces funding confusion

News

THE EUROPEAN consortium bidding for a $87M Bangladeshi bridge project is in limbo after the Bangladeshi government failed to take up a Dutch-Swedish finance offer, which expired last month.

The deal has been on the table for over two years but is understood to have been snubbed in favour of a Kuwaiti offer which only emerged last year.

The 950m long bridge will span over the Karnaphuli River in Chittagong in south east Bangladesh as part of the Asian Highway connecting Bangladesh with Thailand.

UK bridge designer Benaim has already carried out $180,000 worth of work on a feasibility study and preliminary design with Dutch contractor HBG's international arm Interbeton and consultant Haskoning.

This work was commissioned by the Dutch-Swedish banks in 2002.

But Benaim technical director David Collings said that the Dutch-Swedish offer to finance the Karnaphulli Bridge expired in November after waiting two years for an official response.

'No European money has been rejected, but it hasn't been taken up yet, ' he said.

Benaim worked with contractor Nuttall, an HBG subsidiary, on the construction of the Bhairab bridge 80km north east of the capital Dhaka .

'At the opening ceremony for Bhairab, the prime minister said that the third crossing over the Karnaphuli would be built by us with Dutch funding, ' said Collings.

Construction would be similar to the Bhairab bridge.

But in 2003 a new Kuwaiti finance deal emerged. It is thought that by offering cheaper, non European engineers the Kuwaiti deal could bring significant savings.

'There may be a difference in quality, but the savings can be substantial, ' said Collings.

A Bangladeshi High Commission spokesman said that the bridge would be part Kuwaiti funded but could not confirm whether the Dutch-Swedish offer would make up the rest.

An idea being mooted was that the bridge construction should be European funded but the road stretching to Thailand would be Kuwaiti funded.

A spokesman for contractor Interbeton said that it was still awaiting 'actions and decision from the Bangladeshi government' and was optimistic that the project would still o ahead.

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