China, Pakistan lay special focus on ML-1 railway track: Report

BEIJING, July 15 (INP): China and Pakistan while pursuing the 2nd phase of their cooperative partnership under CPEC will be laying special focus on construction of main Railway Line of Pakistan (ML-1)

Construction of ML-1 will be based on modern and latest technology. Both the countries are giving serious consideration to this project for having a strong transportation network in Pakistan.

According to a report published in China Economic Net (CEN), the establishing of high speed rail link between Pakistan and China is already on the agenda. And to this effect, laying down a modern 1872 kilometers long ML-1 was the challenge to be addressed immediately.

According to the report, the original plan was the construction and up gradation of the rail infrastructure between Peshawar and Karachi in two phases and to complete it by 2022.

The decision to split the project in two phases was made by the previous government due to the high cost and extensive work of this project as it requires the refurbishment and expansion of the main railway line. The project’s initial cost of $8.2 billion was based on a joint feasibility study.

However, the incumbent government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, took Chinese government into confidence and both sides decided to bring some amendments in project to make it equally profitable for both sides.

There were very conflicting media reports about the ML-1 project, with some suggesting that there were serious differences between both sides over the project’s financial costs and funding modules.

Some media reports suggested that Pakistani side wanted to introduce a new framework agreement. According to the framework agreement for the ML-I, China was supposed to provide 85% of the project cost as a concessionary loan and the previous Pakistan government had agreed to it.

But all such reports and rumors were shot down when Prime Minister Imran Khan paid a high level visit to Beijing and the ML-1 agreement was signed between Pakistan and China.

The official announcement in this regard by Pakistan said that Pakistan and China had agreed to upgrade ML-1 railway track from Peshawar to Karachi and that an agreement to this effect was signed between China and Pakistan in Beijing on 28th April.It further said that Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad and Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing signed the Declaration for Preliminary Design of ML-1, phase one.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang witnessed the signing ceremony.

The recent agreement is about the first phase and preliminary cost of the complete project is about $8.2 billion, to be completed in three phases.

The accord of ML-1 with China is being regarded as one of the most important accords of the recent history of both countries and is deemed to be the back bone of the CPEC. Country’s Railway Minister has already announced that ML-1 project will create at least 150,000 jobs to locals at different levels while the officials of the Ministry of Railways expect the number of new jobs under ML-1 could touch the 200,000 mark.

The officials said that the scope of the project was induction of 50 locomotives, 300 passenger coaches and 2,000 freight wagons and up gradation of Walton Training Academy. Along with completion of ML-I, the freight volumes of Pakistan railways would considerably increase and the people would also get state of the art rail travelling facilities.

The up-gradation would enhance speed; reduce travel time; enhance the number of trains per day and, hence, generate more revenue while decreasing the burden on roads. It was said that ML-1 was said to be the lifeline of Pakistan railways because of the main earning from this route, which connects Peshawar to Karachi.

Touching on the scope of the ML-1 project, the officials asserted that it would include upgradation and doubling of the main line-1 from Karachi to Peshawar and Taxila to Havelian (1872 kilometres).

The officials further told Senators that a mid-term project to establish a new rail link between Gwadar to Mastung and Besima to Jacobabad would begin in 2025 and end by 2030. Establishing a new rail link from Havelian to Khunjerab would be a long-term project, which would commence in 2030.

With the ML-1 bringing double tracking of Railways, coupled with modern technology, people are very jubilant to have far better travelling and freight facilities in years to come.

It could very easily be said that that the ML-1, after its completion, will redefine the Iron Brotherhood and will take the Pakistan-China friendship to an entirely new horizon with introducing new heights of cooperation between the two nations.

INP/J/SB