LAHORE: Pakistan is considering an offer of a soft loan worth $300 million from Kazakhstan for rehabilitation of the decaying 860-kilometre up/down track from Kotri to Khanpur -- the most critical portion on the entire rail network. Kazakhstan has also offered to execute the project itself since it has the required expertise and technology.

“Kazakhstan has offered us $300 million soft loan for rehabilitation of the 860km long up/down decaying railway track (Khanpur-Kotri-Khanpur). Along with the funding, it has also asked us to execute this project,” Pakistan Railways Chairman Dr Habibur Rehman Gilani told Dawn. “Their offer is under consideration. And if it is accepted, we will give them a go-ahead.”

Kazakhstan has an advanced rail system with the capacity to manufacture locomotives, rail and other equipment and instruments. Four years ago, Russia’s top business group, Transmashholding, reportedly entered into two agreements with the General Electric to work together in Kazakhstan in various rail-related fields.

“Kazakhstan is a developed country having a modern railway transport system (subways etc). The country’s interest in rehabilitating our most critical Khanpur-Kotri section will be a great help for Pakistan Railways,” the chairman said, adding the GE-Transmashholding joint venture contributed greatly to advancing Kazakhstan’s railways.

Dr Gilani said that Kazakhstan, besides Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Russia, was actively in touch with Pakistan for initiation of rail services envisaging access of various Central Asian states up to Karachi and Gwadar ports for exports.

The PR, under an estimated Rs30 billion project, had planned to rehabilitate 15km to 25km of critical stretches on the 860km Khanpur-Kotri-Khanpur up/down portion by replacing them with new tracks, while maintenance of the less-dangerous portions is also part of the project.

The PR had taken the decision after it felt that approval for the ML-1 project was continuously facing delays, so it should start rehabilitation of the critical portions of the track (mainly in Sukkur and Karachi divisions) on its own in funding collaboration with the federal government in a bid to avert accidents.

A majority of the 200 fatal and non-fatal accidents, including several derailments, have occurred on this portion in the last three years.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2021

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