China is not ready to add Pakistan Railways’ Main Line (ML-2) — a strategic route passing through major power plants, to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) due to its low business impact, said Railway Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique.
“China has increased the finances for Pakistan Railways from the initial $3.7 billion to around $8 billion for up-gradation of ML-1 under the CPEC package as it carries about 70 percent of the traffic and has a high business viability”, the Railway Minister informed the National Assembly Standing committee on Railways. The committee met with Naveed Qamar in the chair.
Investment in ML-2
The Minister said that Pakistan Railways, with its own finances, has carried the feasibility study of ML-2 and decided to offer it on Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis. The Ministry is preparing Request for Proposal (RFP) and will soon invite foreign and local companies while issuing Expression of Interest (EoI).
The committee members stressed on including the ML-2 in CPEC, however, the minister said that the decisions are not being taken by a single country but with mutual consensus.
The committee expressed serious concerns over the unabated train accidents in the country claiming many precious lives, besides huge financial losses. Emergency measures are required to minimize the number of train accidents, said Qamar, adding that routine working is not sufficient and the public is tired of hearing Railways’ explanations. The committee also expressed annoyance over the fact that inquiry reports of train accidents are not made public.
Railways officials informed that 447 train accidents occurred during 2014-16 where 74 people died and 118 got injured.
Railways Minister said that short, medium and long term measures have been taken to control train accidents. Pak Railways has started profiling of all drivers, assistant drivers and gate keepers over divisions (physical and mental examination).
Further PC-1 of a new project, worth Rs 730 million, has been submitted to the Planning Division for an effective communication system. Under the project, provision of better communication (VHF radio) for improvement in communication between ground staff and locomotive crew will be ensured.
The minister said that SoPs for military trains have been revised and special SoPs have been put in place while keeping the law and order situation in view to ensure the maximum safety of these trains.
He further said that the matter of upgradation of existing unmanned level crossing has been taken up with provincial governments. Manned level crossing can be further upgraded with provision of signals and tracking/monitoring of trains through GPS/location devices, which is also under process. In the long term, railways will set up joint control rooms manned by Railway and government security agencies in areas with law and order issues.
PSDP and Project Funds
The committee was also briefed on Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) for different projects and its utilization in the current fiscal year.
The committee was informed that Rs 41 billion were earmarked in the budget for 2016-17 and Rs 9.39 billion have so far been released. The committee observed that the releases are too slow and if situation remains the same as in the last quarter, the ministry will have to surrender the money.
The Committee recommended that the Ministry of Finance may release the funds for the said projects in due time for timely completion of the projects. The committee also decided to write a letter to the Finance Ministry for early releases.