ISLAMABAD, Nov 1: The government will lay a broad-gauge railway track at an approximate cost of Rs7.6 billion to link Balochistan with the North-West Frontier Province.

Sources told Dawn on Thursday that the project would reduce the travel distance between Quetta and Peshawar by more than 400 kilometres.

The two-phase project, it may be mentioned, was approved by the PML-led coalition government in 2005 and at one stage it appeared to have been shelved. The project will link Quetta with Peshawar via Bostan, Zhob, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu and Kohat.

On completion, the project will provide shortest rail route from Gwadar to Peshawar for the Afghan traffic and to Havelian for onward connection with China via the Khunjerab Pass.

“It will help in realising the dream of turning Pakistan into an economic hub and centre of trade and business,” claims the ministry of railways.

In the first phase, track will be laid from Bostan to Qila Saifullah (152.5km) and in the second phase from Qila Saifullah to Zhob (142.5km).

The narrow gauge track on the 295km Bostan-Zhob section was laid in 1939. It was a low-speed track, with sharp curves and steep gradients.

The Planning Commission was informed that train operation on the sector had become inefficient, uneconomical and very slow. Operation on the route had been completely stopped in 1991 because of huge financial losses.

The project was first announced during President Gen Pervez Musharraf’s visit to Balochistan in April 2005.

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