Pakistan and China have reviewed phase-1 of railway project, Main Line-1 (Karachi-Peshawar), at an estimated cost of $3.4 billion under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework and agreed to initiate project implementation on priority. The official sources, however, confirmed to Business Recorder that execution and implementation of Pakistan Railways projects with an estimated cost of $8.2 billion under the CPEC framework will have to wait till the next government comes into power as it requires final go-ahead from Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC).
A delegation of CREC, leading Chinese consortium in terms of the framework agreement, called on Chairman Ministry of Railways (MoR), Muhammad Javed Anwar. They discussed progress on ML-1 project. While highlighting importance of ML-1 project, the MoR chairman informed that it is an early harvest and a strategic project of CPEC framework. The project is expected to transmute railways system in Pakistan.
The feasibility study of preliminary design of phase-1 of the project has been completed and is in the final stages of review process so that next steps of project implementation can be initiated on priority. Both the sides also discussed areas of cooperation in the railways sector. The meeting was also attended by Head of Pakistan Mission of CREC and the director general planning.
The sources said that Pakistan Railways with its own resources has completed the feasibility study and preliminary design of ML-1 to be upgraded under the CPEC project in five years with the objective to have greater say in project implementations.
The Ministry of Railways submitted PC-1 for 10 sub-projects of phase-1 under the CPEC framework at a cost of $3.4 billion to the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform, and it has been approved by the Central Development Working Party (CDWP).
However, now the railways projects require ECNEC approval and that is possible only after the new government comes into office. The sources said that after the approval from the ECNEC, the railways projects under the CPEC would come into bidding process, the minister was informed.
"There is no delay in the start of Main Line-1 project under the CPEC, but it is a huge, multi-disciplinary project at an estimated cost of $8.2 billion which is likely to increase on finalization of preliminary design for the bidding process," sources added.
Due diligence and prudence in finalization of this huge project is taking time which is considered essential for processing the project cycle. Up-gradation of ML-1 of the Pakistan Railways (Karachi to Peshawar and Taxila to Havelian) and establishment of dry port near Havelian is an "early harvest project" under the CPEC framework and estimated to be completed by 2020.
Initially, the financial support to the Pakistan Railways under the CPEC was estimated at $5.7 billion, which were later increased to $8.2 billion after approval of new framework. With up-gradation of ML-1, train's speed will increase to 160 km/h compared to the current 120km/h while train capacity would be increased from the current 32 to 171 trains per day.
The Pakistan Railways has planned to upgrade/overhaul infrastructure of ML-1 under the CPEC framework including track, bridges, tunnels, buildings, signalling and telecommunication systems, track maintenance system, rolling stock maintenance and overhauling facilities, establishment of dry port near Havelian, besides dualization of track between Peshawar and Shahdara.