Jamuna Bridge

Year:1998

Duration:4 years

Cost:$696m ($1bn today)

Country: Bangladesh

What did this project achieve?

Build a bridge to connect the east and west of Bangladesh

The Jamuna bridge is a 5.63km-long crossing over the Jamuna River, one of the three major rivers of Bangladesh.

The structure – also known as the Jamuna Multi-Purpose Bridge, or the Bangabandhu Bridge – connects the district of Bhuapur on the east bank of the river to the town of Sirajganj on the west bank.

The 18.5m-wide bridge has 47 main spans of approximately 100m, and two end spans of approximately 65m. There are also east and west approach viaducts, each with 12 spans of 10m apiece.

The scheme carries road and rail traffic, as well as gas, electricity and telecommunications.

It has a dual two-lane carriageway, dual gauge railway lines and a 230KV high voltage power line. It carries natural gas in a 750mm high pressure pipeline.

The project was designed to bring the north-west region of Bangladesh into the country’s mainstream economy and make inter-regional trade easier.

The bridge is part of the Asian Highway and the Trans-Asian Railway. When these links are complete, they’ll provide uninterrupted road and rail routes from south east Asia through central Asia to north west Europe.

Winner of a British Design Council Award, the scheme was the 11th longest bridge in the world when it opened in 1998. It’s currently the 6thlongest in South Asia.

Difference the project has made

The Jamuna can now be crossed by rail or road in a matter of minutes. Before the bridge was built, people had to rely on slower ferry services – often cancelled in bad weather.

The bridge is credited with an enormous socio-economic impact on the region, by linking the northwestern districts of Bangladesh to the rest of the country.

The structure carries electricity and gas – helping tie Bangladesh’s power and gas networks into a national grid.

How the work was done

The Jamuna is a ‘braided’ river. This means it flows through a number of small channels separated by temporary islands of sediment. These islands often change shape over a wide area.

An early challenge for engineers was to ‘train’ the Jamuna using guide banks – these were designed to narrow the width of the river from 14km to less than 5km.

Guide banks – sometimes known as guide bunds - are embankment-like structures. They’re usually constructed of sand with a stone facing. Built parallel or nearly parallel to the direction of a river’s flow, they’re used to redirect water.

Engineers used the guide banks to narrow the river at the point the bridge would cross. A shorter bridge meant fewer materials were needed for construction – saving costs.

The Jamuna is deep and fast flowing during flood season, but it’s shallow for most of the year. This saw engineers transporting materials for the guide banks from the coast by barge – 300km away.

The ground the bridge was to be built on is unstable, and the area can be hit by earthquakes. This meant engineers had to build particularly solid foundations for the structure.

The project team used tubular steel piles for the scheme’s foundations. These were driven into the river bed and filled with concrete. It took nine months to sink the 121 piles needed for the structure.

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The Jamuna Bridge has become one of the most identifiable landmarks in the country.

World Bank website

Fascinating facts

It’s estimated that over one million people have benefitted directly from construction of the Jamuna bridge.

The World Bank – which helped fund the bridge – claims that farmers in the region are better off since the scheme was built, as they now save money on transporting their produce.

The bank estimates that poverty in the region will be cut by up to 40% as a result of new links the bridge has created.

People who made it happen

  • Client: Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge Authority, Government of Bangladesh
  • International funding agencies: World Bank (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) - Asian Development Bank - Government of Bangladesh
  • Consulting engineer: Rendel, Palmer & Tritton/Nedeco Joint Venture
  • Contractors: HAM - Van Oord ACZ Joint Venture;
    Hyundai Engineering and Construction with consultants Tony Gee & Partners.

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