Islamabad: Pakistan’s most valuable and strategic project under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – US$6.8 billion railway modernization Mainline-1 (ML-1) – finally received the green signal from the country’s top economic body.
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) in a meeting chaired by Finance Adviser Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh approved the railway project on a cost-sharing basis between Islamabad and Beijing, Pakistan’s finance ministry said.
“The execution of the project shall be in 3 packages and in order to avoid commitment charges, the loan amount for each package will be separately contracted,” the council said. Ministry of Railways would constitute a project steering committee for effective supervision and implementation of the project.
The work on the project has been planned in a way to address the concerns of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) about debt sustainability. Initially, Pakistan will begin with first phase of $2.4 billion worth of construction work. The second phase costing $2.7 billion will begin a year after the first stage and the third phase costing $1.7 billion would launch two years after ‘package-1’ of ML-1, according to reports.
Expected completion time
The package-1 of the project is expected to be completed between January 2021 and December 2024 and will cover the construction of 527 km-long track between Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Lahore. The package-2 that will upgrade the 521 km-long track from Lahore to Hyderabad will be completed between January 2022 to December 2026, while the final package-3 will upgrade the 740-km distance of Rawalpindi-Peshawar and Hyderabad-Multan track.
ML-1 – a milestone CPEC project
The Karachi–Peshawar Railway Line (known as ML-1) project aimed at revamping and modernising Pakistan’s outdated railway system has been described as a “landmark project” by Pakistani officials.
Asim Bajwa, Chairman of CPEC Authority, described the project as a big milestone under the second phase of CPEC. The transformational railway project would also include Havelian dry port and upgrading of Walton Academy of Pakistan Railway to meet the demand of the containerized future freight traffic and cargo handling facilities.
ML-1 is one of the country’s four main railway lines managed by Pakistan Railways. It covers a length of 1,687 kilometres.
- The line capacity will increase from 34 to over 171 trains each way per day.
- Freight trains will be operated at 120 km/h
- Freight trains load to be increased from 2400 to 3400 tons
- ML-1 project will double the entire track from Karachi to Peshawar
- Modern signalling and control system to be established