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China to invest Rs1,000bn to upgrade railways

Updated May 19, 2017
RAILWAYS Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique addressing the press conference on Thursday.—PPI
RAILWAYS Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique addressing the press conference on Thursday.—PPI

LAHORE: China will invest Rs1,000 billion to upgrade Pakistan Railways’ infrastructure under a framework agreement signed during the recent visit of a high-level Pakistani delegation to Beijing, said Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique.

“Work on the project will start by the end of this year,” he said at a news conference here on Thursday.

Under the agreement, he said, Main Line-1 (ML-1) track from Peshawar to Karachi, the PR Walton Academy at Lahore and Havelian Container Terminal would be upgraded.

The ML-1 would have double track with fencing around it in populated areas. Latest automatic signalling system would be installed to ensure accident-free travel at a speed ranging from 120 to 160 kilometres per hour, said Mr Rafique.

“We did not accept Chinese offer to appoint their consultant for the management and monitoring of the project. We will appoint an impartial consultant through international bidding in a transparent way.”

Terming the agreement a breakthrough, he said the investment would be only for the ML-1 upgrade and for five to six years.

The Pakistani delegation persuaded the Chinese authorities to extend long-term loan on favourable conditions. The mark-up might not go beyond 2 per cent rate. It would help transform PR into one of the modern railways in the world.

In reply to a question, the minister said that PR required $30-35bn for its complete transformation. “The PR spends 74pc of its income on pay and pension, 16pc on fuel while only 10.5pc is left for uplift plans,” he explained.

The PR was also working with provinces to develop mass transit systems in provincial capitals.

“Work to restore Karachi Circular Railways is in progress while construction of Peshawar Mass Transit Railways is under consideration,” he said.

The minister said that engineers of Pakistan Army had developed a modern signalling system for level crossings.

“PR is thankful to Pakistan Army and its organisation Frontier Works Organisation,” he said.

To another question, the minister said that the PR earned Rs36bn in the previous year and was expecting to earn Rs41bn by June 30 this year.

“The PR income is likely to be more than Rs53bn in the coming years,” he added.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2017