Saudi Arabia has agreed to provide financial assistance of Rs3.4 billion for the construction of the Swat Expressway, state-owned Radio Pakistan reported Wednesday.

The total cost of the Swat Expressway mega project was estimated to be Rs38bn when it was first launched. It was envisaged as a collaborative effort involving the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government under the Public-Private Partnership Act, 2014.

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The 113-kilometre-long expressway will connect the Karnal Sher Khan Interchange on the Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway with Chakdara, and onward to Kalam, tunneling its way through mountains at Palai and Ala Dhand.

Pakhtunkhwa Highway Authority (PKHA) officials said the length of the tunnels had been estimated at about two kilometres.

With the completion of the road, the journey from Karnal Sher Khan Interchange to Chakdara will be reduced to 45 minutes.

The four-lane expressway is expected to boost trade, business and tourism in the Malakand Division, Radio Pak said. The area is also expected to experience development as the expressway eases access to major marketplaces.

The areas benefiting from the project had been largely cut off from major routes, making transportation and business extremely difficult.

The route is also expected to boost tourism in Swat and adjacent areas.

According to PKHA officials, the expressway is also of strategic importance as it will provide easy and quick access to remote areas that were previously inaccessible.