LAHORE: The construction of $6.8 billion Pakistan Railways’ mega ML-I, which was approved by the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) in its meeting on Wednesday, would be completed in three packages.

Under package-1, the existing tracks between Lala Musa and Lahore, Lahore and Multan and Nawab Shah and Rohri would be upgraded/replaced.

“The package-2 would consist of upgrade of the track between Lala Musa and Rawalpindi, Noshehra and Peshawar and Hyderabad and Karachi sections. The package-3 would have upgrade of the remaining portions of the main line including Multan/Khanewal to Sukkar,” an official source told Dawn on Wednesday.

He said the project total cost was $7.12bn since it included $0.32bn allocated for the procurement of 50 new locomotives. “However, the Ecnec excluded this amount from total cost and approved the actual one of $6.8bn of the project. It referred the remaining $0.32bn cost for the locomotives purchase to the PSDP (Public Sector Development Programme) for approval,” the official said.

According to an internal briefing given to the prime minister and top CPEC and Railways’ authorities, the project’s core objectives include reduction of logistic cost, efficiency gain for industry and trade, increase rail passengers and freight share from 4 to 20 per cent by 2025 under vision 2025 and National Transport Policy, reduce cost of operation and maintenance of roads with a view to getting economic benefit, ensure safety of passengers and freight and enhance direct and indirect employment.

Under a broader scope of work, the project would have upgrade of ML-1 from Karachi to Peshawar and Taxila to Havelian (1,872km), laying of new track with improved subgrade for 160km/per hour, rehabilitation and construction of bridges, provision of modern signaling 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 would reduce travel time from Karachi to Lahore, Lahore-Multan, Islamabad-Lahore, Peshawar-Islamabad and Karachi-Hyderabad from 18 to 10 hours, 5 to 3, 4:30 to 2:30, 3:45 to 1:45 and 2 to 1:20 hours, respectively.

The project will create 24,000 direct (20,000 local labour/technical experts and 4,000 Chinese experts) and 150,000 indirect jobs for local labour/technical experts.

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2020

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