ML-1 cost more than doubled due to delay, PM told

Published June 14, 2023
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs a meeting on Tuesday on Pakistan Railways. — Photo courtesy: PID
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs a meeting on Tuesday on Pakistan Railways. — Photo courtesy: PID

ISLAMABAD: The cost of the ambitious Main Line-1 (ML-1) railway project has escalated more than 100 per cent due to delay in its execution, making it difficult for the government to find resources for the venture.

Now, the cost of the project, which was conceived under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in 2016 with an estimated cost of $6 million and financial assurance from Beijing, has gone up to $13 million.

This was informed in a meeting, presided over by Prime Minister She­­h­baz Sharif, on Pakistan Railways.

A source privy to the meeting told Dawn that the government had no financial assistance from anywhere in sight to execute the project and therefore, the premier had directed the authorities concerned to at least start the first phase of the project from Karachi to Sukkur through the government’s own resources.

Work on Karachi to Sukkur phase to be carried out using govt’s own resources

The meeting was told that China that had promised to fund the ML-1 — the project aimed at upgrade of railway track from Karachi to Peshawar — had yet to give any confirmation in this regard. The participants were further informed that the PTI government has made a dent to the project and changed the original plan ML-1 from the Built, Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis to engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) mode.

Urgent revival

According to PM Office, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif directed the authorities concerned for execution of ML-1 on a priority basis and said the government was working on the revival of railways on urgent basis.

“ML-1 is the backbone of Paki­stan Railways and in the future, Pakistan would provide trade corridor facilities to the regional countries through its railways and seaports systems,” the prime minister was quoted as saying.

The meeting was attended by Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar, Min­ister for Commerce Syed Naveed Qamar, Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique and others.

During the meeting, the prime minister observed that people were being facilitated through motorways, public transport, health and education initiatives completed during the PML-N tenures.

The meeting was also apprised of the ongoing reforms and digitalisation of railways. So far, the ticketing system had been completely digitalised, it was informed.

Fata-KP

Presiding over a separate meeting on development of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in general and uplift of erstwhile Federally Admi­nistered Tribal Areas (Fata) in particular, the prime minister said: “The previous government never developed the province.”

During the meeting, the political situation of the country and various issues, including the upcoming KP assembly elections, were highlighted.

The premier said the incumbent government had taken special steps in the fiscal year 2023–24 for the development of merged tribal districts, and would ensure that the people of KP get full benefits from the health and education projects of the centre.

The PM said farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would be equipped with quality seeds, a timely supply of fertilisers and modern technology.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2023

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