Sunday June 23, 2024

China may be involved in running Karachi-Peshawar railway

By Mehtab Haider
February 05, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will have to explore its options by involving China in management control of the Pakistan Railways in order to run modernised Mainline (ML-1) from Karachi to Peshawar on efficient basis after completion of this “strategic project” in two phases with estimated $8.2 billion loan, The News has learnt.

Now the financing plan will only be finalised when both the sides -- Pakistan and China--will reach a consensus on adoption of model for running the Pakistan Railways on modern lines because there is a consensus that existing outdated management control cannot run an efficient rail even after modernisation of infrastructure by making investment of billions of dollars.

Different models, including public, private partnership, are under consideration for running the affairs of the Pakistan Railways (PR) in an efficient manner after converting its manual operation into computerised and modern lines and one option could be involvement of the Chinese to run computerised rail system which will be in place after completion of ML-1 in the next four to five year period.

One top official of the Ministry of Railways confided to The News on Sunday that unskilled labour force would be converted into high tech labour force in gradual manner. “Our four thousand employees have been retiring on annual basis, so new models will be in place to hire thousands of youth to run this modern system of PR in years to come,” they added.

China will provide 85 percent loan on concessional terms while the Government of Pakistan is going to bear 15 percent expenses of this ‘strategic project’. Official documents available with The News disclosed on Sunday that the scope of the project would ensure doubling of entire track from Karachi to Peshawar where speed of passenger train would be increased from 65/110km/h to 160km/h, and freight trains would operate at 120km/h. There will be computer based signaling and control system and grade operation would ensure safety of trains. The double track will be fenced on almost entire route.

With the help of ML-1, it has been estimated by officials of both Pakistan and China that the freight traffic would increase by five times from 5 million to 25 million tonnes per annum while passenger traffic would be increased from 55 to 88 million passengers on annual basis. The train transit time will be reduced by half, helping in reducing congestion at roads and ports and contribute for reducing cost of doing business in Pakistan.

The ML-1 project, according to official document, has been declared ‘strategic project’ by 6th joint cooperation committee (JCC) meeting held at Beijing. The framework agreement on ML-1 was signed on May 15, 2017, during PM’s visit to China and memorandum of understanding (MoU) was also signed between Pakistan’s Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms (MPDR) and China’s NDRC.

For first phase of ML-1, three contract packages have been prepared, and under package one, Lahore-Multan (334km), Kaluwal-Pindora (52km) and Walton Academy will be upgraded, under package 2, Nawabshah-Rohri (183km) will be upgraded and under package 3 Peshwar, Rawalpindi (159km), Taxila-Havalian (59km) and a dry port near Havalian would be constructed and track would be doubled.

When contacted, Pakistan Railways’ top officials disclosed to The News that after making huge investment of billions of dollars the railway system and procedures would be overhauled altogether, so restructuring plan was underway. “We are exploring different models to run our rail on modern lines,” they added.

They said that they made fresh request to the Ministry of Planning for fast track approval of the PC-1 for ML-1 project as the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) was expected to take up phase-1 of the ML-1 in its next meeting.

They said that the government decided to hire Project Management Consultant to run ML-1 in professional manner. The Project Management Unit (PMU) and PIU will have placed with the mandate to execute the ML-1 project. “At the same time, we are preparing restructuring plan to run the PR on modern lines,” they said and added that with existing outdated system no modern rail can run, so all system will be overhauled to convert the PR into state of the art and modern rail network.