BEIJING: China has agreed to undertake work on rehabilitation and up-gradation of Karachi-Lahore Peshawar (ML-1) Railway Track (1,872kms) on fast-track basis.
This is an important part of Pakistan-China Economic Corridor. National Railway Administration of China (NRAC) and the Ministry of Railways Pakistan have already done some initial work to this effect, including feasibility study.
According to the experts here, the project cost of $8.176 billion and it will be completed in two phases. The first phase of $3.2 billion covers up-gradation of four segments. The framework agreement of the ML-1 was signed last year.
As defined in the bilateral arrangement, the overall scope of the bilateral cooperation in the railways sector is doubling of entire track from Karachi to Peshawar, speed of passenger trains to be raise from 65/110km/h to 160 km/h, freight trains to operate at 120 km/h, computer based signaling and control system and grade separation to ensure safety of train operations.
The up-gradation will bring the long-needed attention to railway transportation, which has deteriorated significantly over the past few decades.
The Pakistan Railways carried over 70% of the national freight load in the 1970s, which now stands at a meager 4 percent%. Reportedly, the Pakistan Railways expects that this would grow to 20% after completion of this project with freight traffic increasing from five to 25 million tonnes per annum by 2025. The passenger traffic is also expected to increase by 45% (from 55 to 80 million passengers per annum).
Meanwhile, a report released by the National Bureau of Statistics said that China’s “four vertical and four horizontal high-speed railway network” has almost been completed, making China the world’s first country with a complete high-speed rail network in operation.
The report said that China’s total railway line mileage reached 127,000 kilometers by the end of 2017, up 145.6 percent from 1978, with an average annual growth of 2.3 percent. The distance of China’s high-speed rail hit 25,200 kilometers, topping the global chart.