Main Line-1 (ML-1), which is Pakistan’s first modern railways infrastructure project has now been sent to the Exim Bank of China for approval of a $6 billion loan. The approval of this loan is going to allow the launching civil work on this scheme within this year.
Pakistan Railways Federal Secretary / Railway Board Chairman Dr Habibur Rehman Gillani said that the latest on the $6.8 billion ML-1 project is that a finance committee comprising Chinese officials has sent the case related to $6 billion loan approval of the project to Exim Bank. Since the remaining $800 million will be provided by the government of Pakistan as equity, the total $6.8 billion will be spent on completion of the entire rail-related infrastructure, mainly the line, fencing, civil works etc.
“We appreciate our Chinese counterparts for taking the ML-1, a project to be executed under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), seriously by resolving various issues in consultation with senior Pakistani officials concerned,” Mr Gillani added.
The actual cost of the project was was initially $9bn, including equity amount of the government of Pakistan, however it was later reduced to $6.8bn. The construction of ML-1 project in three phases had been approved by the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) in its meeting held in August last year.
According to Gillani, once the loan is approved by the Exim bank, the project would be sent to respective Chinese ministries dealing with the railways and planning / development related matters. This whole process would take a couple of months after which the tendering and international bidding process for the execution of the project would be carried out by the ministry.
The project would have upgrade of ML-1 from Karachi to Peshawar and Taxila to Havelian (1,872km), laying of new track with improved sub grade for 160km/per hour, rehabilitation and construction of bridges, provision of modern signalling and telecom systems, conversion of level crossings into underpasses/flyovers, fencing of track, establishment of dry port near Havelian and upgrade of Walton Training Academy (Lahore).
The project is believed to create 24,000 direct (20,000 local labour/technical experts and 4,000 Chinese experts) jobs and reduce travel time from Karachi to Lahore from 18 to 10 hours.