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Cost of CPEC’s Railways ML-I project brought down by $2 bn: Sheikh Rashid

The Railways Minister, Sheikh Rashid, on Monday said the estimated cost of expansion and reconstruction of ML-1 [Main Line-I that runs from Peshawar to Karachi] track under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been brought down to $6.2 billion from $8.2 billion.

By Our Correspondent
October 02, 2018


LAHORE: The Railways Minister, Sheikh Rashid, on Monday said the estimated cost of expansion and reconstruction of ML-1 [Main Line-I that runs from Peshawar to Karachi] track under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been brought down to $6.2 billion from $8.2 billion.

Addressing a press conference at the Pakistan Railways headquarters, he said the special audit of 15 engine oil depots of Pakistan Railways would be conducted soon to save the expenses of one to two billion rupees on an annual basis. He added those found involved in oil depots corruption would be dismissed from the service.

Sheikh Rashid said 10 new trains would be introduced during the first 100 days of the incumbent government. He also said keeping in view the upcoming foggy season, the railways is in the process of acquiring technology and equipment for safety purposes. He said Pakistan Railways would strive to increase the number of passengers from the current 50 million to 70 million and freight trains from 12 to 15. He also promised focusing on under-capacity trains and offering more discount on fare. Sheikh Rashid said the prime minister is scheduled to chair a meeting of a committee in which some very important decisions about Pakistan Railways would be taken.

He also said Pakistan Railways would recover all longstanding dues, amounting to millions of rupees, from public and private parties, adding that railways is facing a financial crisis and is in dire need of finances. He said the Pakistan Railways is also contemplating on constructing industrial zones near all the big railway stations. He added that an agreement with a cement company for transportation of coal till the year 2021 has been finalised and the railways is expected to earn profit of Rs1.2 billion on an annual basis.

Talking about the Khushal Khan Khattak Express accident, he said the AME Peshawar and Deputy CME (Carriage and Wagon) would remain suspended until the completion of inquiry. He warned that every divisional superintendent would be responsible for the maintenance of tracks within his jurisdiction and would be suspended for showing negligence in performing the duty. He said two new trains Moenjo Daro Express and Rohi Express would start from October 16 initially for three months on a trial basis, which would be later handed over to the private sector. Earlier in the morning, Sheikh Rashid inaugurated a new non-stop train on Lahore-to-Faisalabad route at the Lahore Railway Station.

Reuters adds: Islamabad has cut the size of the biggest Chinese “Silk Road” project in Pakistan by $2 billion, Sheikh Rashid said on Monday, citing government concerns about the country’s debt levels.

The megaproject to revamp the colonial-era line stretching 1,872 km from Karachi to the northwestern city of Peshawar was initially priced at $8.2 billion, but wrangling over costs has led to the delays. The changes are part of Islamabad’s efforts to rethink the key Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects in Pakistan, where Beijing has pledged about $60 billion in financing but the new government of the populist Prime Minister Imran Khan appears to be more cautious about the Chinese investment. “Pakistan is a poor country that cannot afford huge burden of the loans,” Rasheed told a news conference in the city of Lahore. “Therefore, we have reduced the loan from China under CPEC for rail projects from $8.2 billion to $6.2 billion,” he added, referring to the CPEC.

He said the government remains committed to the Karachi-Peshawar Main (ML-1) project but added that he wishes to further reduce the cost to $4.2 billion from $6.2 billion. The “CPEC is like the back bone for Pakistan, but our eyes and ears are open,” Sheikh Rashid said.

The ML-1 is the spine of the country’s dilapidated rail network, as well as the biggest source of revenue. Pakistan’s rail system has struggled to break even for decades as passenger numbers plunge, train lines close and the vital freight business nosedives.