Pakistan to overhaul railway system with China’s help

BY QASWAR ABBAS

ISLAMABAD— (Gwadar Pro) – In order to replace its old and aging Railway system with modern and fast system, Pakistan Railway has invited bids from Chinese companies to tender for country’s first and biggest transport sector project —Main Line-1 (ML-1) — from Sept 12.

The project which is all set to benefit millions of Pakistanis has been divided into three separate packages —Nawabshah to Rohri / Sukkar, Multan to Lahore & Walton Academy and Lahore to Lalamusa & Kaluwal to Pindora sections.

Pakistani officials said, ML-1 would create as many as 100,000 to 150,000 Pakistanis are expected to get jobs in ML-1. This project is known as upgradation of Pakistan railway’s Mainline (ML-1) worth billions of US dollars.

Through invitation of bids which has been made public from September 12, the railways ministry is seeking expression of interest for up-gradation of the aforementioned packages of the ML-1 in EPC (Engineering, Procurement & Construction) mode from eligible Chinese firms on the basis. The invitation for bids said the “project will be funded under CPEC financing arrangement through loan from Chinese Financial Institutions and partly funded by Government of Pakistan.” Pakistan Railway has set a deadline of October 22 for submission of bids for the project

Under ML-1 project existing 2,655 km track would be upgraded and speed of passenger trains would increase from 110kms per hour to 165kms per hour while line capacity would increase from 34 to 171 trains each way per day.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Railways has already constituted a project steering committee for the effective supervision and implementation of the project.

Following extensive debates and deliberations, Pakistan’s Executive Committee of National Economic Council (CNEC) has recently given green signal to upgrade Pakistan Railways’ Mainline-1 (ML-1) at estimated cost of $6.806 billion (equal to PKR 11.44 trillion) under CPEC.

Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC) has approved the transformational railway project at a cost of $6.806 billion from Peshawar to Karachi (1,872km) including Havelian Dry Port and upgrading the Walton Academy.

The project of Pakistan Railways for “upgradation of Pakistan Railways existing ML-1 and establishment of dry port near Havelian” will cost $6,806.783 million. Both Pakistan and China will bear the cost on ‘cost sharing’ basis.

First package of ML1 will be completed between January 2021 and December 2024. This package involves construction of 527km of track between Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Lahore. The second package, which will be completed between January 2022 and December 2026 which involves upgradation of 521km of track between Lahore and Hyderabad.

Meanwhile, third package will upgrade 740km track along the Rawalpindi – Peshawar and Hyderabad – Multan lines. Once completed, the project will increase the maximum speed for passenger services from 65-110km/h to 160km/h, while freight train speeds will increase from 80km/h to 120km/h.

ML-1 project is most important project of CPEC. Analysts in Pakistan believe ML1 is the lifeline of CPEC which is serves as backbone in Pakistan-China bilateral relationship. “China will bear 90% of total cost of upgradation of ML1,” Sheikh Rashid told this correspondent over telephone.

Following approval by ECNEC regarding the upgradation of the Karachi-Peshawar Main-Line (ML-1) Project, the government is expecting the groundbreaking of the project around March 2021. According to the Minister “Ground breaking is expected next year in March.”

ML-1 projects is all set to connect China to Pakistan’s Gwadar port by the end of 2025. “ML-1 project is in fact backbone of CPEC. Either China or Pakistan can’t fully utilize the potential of Gwadar port without railway connectivity. This is why ML-1 project is regarded as backbone of CPEC,” Aitzaz Khilji, Assistant professor of Economics told this correspondent.

Prime Minister Imran Khan also asked key ministers of his cabinet to make sure this project completes in due time. “CPEC is central to Pakistan’s economy and a game changer and the Main Line-One project is backbone of CPEC which will not only modernize and strengthen Pakistan Railways, but also create thousands of jobs for skilled people and boost industrialization in the country,” Imran Khan told cabinet last month.

First published by Gwadar Pro

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