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PESHAWAR, Jan 23: The Pakistan Railway is not able to construct a modern dry port at Azakhel due to financial constraints, says Mansoor Tariq, the caretaker minister for railways.

He, however, asked the business community of the province to come forward and materialise the project on the basis of joint-venture.

Mr Tariq was speaking at a meeting of local businessmen at the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) here on Wednesday. SCCI President Haji Mohammad Asif chaired the session, where a large number of traders including those associated with the Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) were also present.

Construction of a modern dry port in Peshawar, which is virtually a gateway to Afghanistan and Central Asia, was a long standing issue for which the successive governments of Nawaz Sharif and Shaukat Aziz had their resolve to carry forward.

“Honestly speaking, the railway doesn’t have the resources to build a modern dry port, if the business community really want this facility, it should bear the construction cost and the land will be provided by the government,” clarified the minister, when one of the participants of the meeting raised the issue.

The minister explained that the railway ministry had recently signed an agreement with the private sector, which would build a modern dry port with an estimated investment of Rs1.70 billion near Lahore. The railways would earn Rs1.20 billion annually through operation of the dry port, he added.

When asked for provision of sufficient railway wagons for the transportation of Goods in Transit to Afghanistan (GITA) from seaport to Peshawar, the minister replied that the department had not shortage of wagons but the main issue was sustainability of the service.

The ministry, he said, had formulated a new policy to increase its freight business for which it was signing agreements with different industries. In this regard agreements had been signed with the package and steel industries, for which the railways would provide logistic facilities for movement of their goods and raw material whenever required.

“The traders, mainly those affiliated with GITA, should come forward and sign similar agreement following which there would be no issue of non-availability of wagons,” the minister remarked and proposed that the SCCI should sign an agreement with the railways to take benefit from the new facility.

Mr Tariq announced commencement of mass transit train from Peshawar city to Hayatabad for reducing traffic congestion in the metropolis.