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ISLAMABAD, July 3: The federal government has finalized a major rehabilitation plan for the Pakistan Railways to improve the entire main railway line from Karachi to Rawalpindi and Lahore to Faisalabad.

An amount of Rs60 billion would be utilized over the next five years to improve various sections of the railway line as more than 80 per cent bridges of the Pakistan Railways at present were overage and could lead to a major disaster any day.

About 11,700 bridges out of the 14,570 bridges have completed their designed life. About 65 per cent or 5,042 kilometres out of the 7,879-km track is overage and that too poses a threat.

“We are dreaming of making Pakistan as the regional hub of trade and economic activities by the next decade through rail and road networks but major portion of railway tracks and bridges are overage, its signals and telecom system is obsolete and it is in overall deficit,” an official said.

A number of branch lines would also be upgraded and rehabilitated to make them fit for a sectional speed of 100 kilometres per hour.

Under the plan, all railway manufacturing and repair units like carriage factory, locomotive factory, sleepers factories, Mughalpura shop and steel shop would be converted into autonomous units with diversifications of activities.

The new measures would increase the quantum of passenger and freight traffic by 18 per cent and 76 per cent, respectively, by the end of 2010. With estimated annual growth rates of 12 per cent and 3.3 per cent for freight and passenger traffic, respectively, Railway is projected to carry 10 billion tons kilometre of freight and 28 billion passenger kilometre of passenger traffic by the year 2010.

The track between Khanewal to Raiwind would be doubled at a cost of Rs5.7 billion while Mirpurkhas-Khokhrapar rail line would be converted from Metre Gauge to Broad Gauge at a cost of Rs700 million.

Similarly, an amount of Rs12.7 billion would be utilized to procure, manufacture and assemble around 75 diesel locomotives while 1,000 freight wagons would be procured at a cost of Rs4.8 billion. Another 150 passenger coaches would be procured at a cost of Rs6 billion.

The Lalamusa-Shadara and Khanpur-Shahdara track would be upgraded at a cost of Rs4.8 billion, while Lahore-Faisalabad track would be doubled at a total cost of Rs3.8 billion.

Two major projects have been planned for Gwadar port at a cost of Rs14.5 billion. These include Rs2.5 billion setting up of a railway yard and railway linkage from Gwadar port to container yard and rail link to Gwadar. Besides, a Rs15 billion project for upgrading Rohri-Quetta-Taftan rail link has been taken in hand.

It is envisaged that the Pakistan Railway’s will operate on commercial lines, with the government meeting the full cost of public service obligations. The railway infrastructure, especially that on the main corridor, would be rehabilitated and a culture of scheduled freight trains introduced, with priority to bulk movement of goods over long haul.

The private sector would initially be allowed to operate freight trains on payment of track access charges.