ML-1 spans a total distance of 1,872kms, starting from Kiamari station in Karachi and ending at Cantonment station in Peshawar. The railway track encompasses 184 railway stations from Kiamari to Peshawar Cantonment and is used by over 75% of the country’s cargo and passenger traffic.
The rehabilitation and renovation of the ML-1 railway line involves doubling of the entire railway track from Karachi to Peshawar. After renovation of the track the speed of passenger trains is expected to increase from 110km/h to 160km/h and speed of freight trains is expected to be raised up to 120km/h.
This will be a kind of revolution in terms of communications and industry. After being upgraded, the railway line will be installed with a computer-based signalling and control system – reducing the epidemic of railway accidents that has been seen across Pakistan in recent years.
The rehabilitation project will follow all international safety standards, install safety fences along the railway tracks, and grade separation will be implemented to ensure safety of all train operations.
Hundreds of underpasses and overhead bridges are part of the project. ML-1 will 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.
It will also lead to upgrading of Railways Academy at Walton and will create a new dry port at Havelian. The proposal for rehabilitating the railway line was brought forward by Ministry of Railways and the plan is being implemented by Pakistan Railways under the supervision of Ministry of Communications, Government of Pakistan.
Feasibility of the project was assessed and approved and initial processing on the work on the project commenced in 2016. Initially the total cost of whole project was US $9.2 billion but now it has been brought down to US $6.8 billion approved by ECNEC – as train sets and rolling stocks will be part of a separate project after the completion of works on tracks, and rehabilitation is expected to be completed in 9 years.
China’s Involvement through CPEC
The up-gradation project will be financed through Chinese Government Loan, and work regarding the project will be awarded through an open bidding process according to PPRA rules through EPC contract. As of April 2021, progress is that the Chinese side is studying the proposed terms for financing of ML-1 submitted by the Pakistani side.
Once the loan reaches a concensus between both governments, the Pakistan Railways would be able to initiate the international bidding / tendering process for execution of the project.
Once renovated, the railway lines will assist in quick transport of goods and passengers across Pakistan when compared in the past and will have a higher transport capacity owing to the doubling of the railway lines.
The project is planned to be completed in 3 packages spanning a time frame of 9 years. Groundwork ie the physical work is expected to kick off in January 2022. The railway project also entails the establishment of a dry port.
The project of rehabilitation is vital to enhance the transport services in Pakistan as it will aid in cargo transport around the country as well as transport of passengers, easing the massive burden on national highways, motorways and roads in the country, and will also speed up the overall process of transportation in the country.
There is a huge desire across the county that this rail project should ultimately connect Pakistani cities with cities in China. If KKH could result in CPEC then this may also happen in near future. And once it happens it will be a revolution