The rail connectivity of Gwadar port with other parts of the country is not a priority under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework, as it requires over $4 billion, said Railways Ministry officials.
“The overall up-gradation of Pakistan Railways is estimated to cost $40-50 billion, which the government itself cannot finance”, said Chief Executive Pakistan Railways Aftab Akbar, adding that international investors have been invited to invest in ML-2 and ML-3 on Built Operate and Transfer (BoT), Public-Private Partnership (PPP) or Joint Ventures (JVs).
He stated this while briefing the Sub-Committee of Senate Standing Committee on Railways, which met with John Kenneth Williams in the chair. The parliamentary panel was given a detailed briefing on Pakistan Railways projects relating to CPEC and the initiatives taken by Pakistan Railways.
Briefing the committee, Railways officials said that the CPEC project for Railways will consist of —ML-1’s up-gradation and the establishment of dry port in the short term, Establishing a new rail link from Gwadar to Mastung and Besima to Jacobabad in the mid-term and establishing new rail link from Havelian to Khunjrab (China border) in the long term.
China and Pakistan are expected to reach an agreement for finances on ML-1 soon, said Railways officials, adding that the estimated cost of up-gradation of ML-1 and the dry port is $8.2 billion which would be completed in five years, in two phases. The project of upgrading ML-1 has been declared a strategic commercial project with a loan on favorable terms as it presents a perfect business plan covering 75 percent of the traffic/population and 65 percent industrial areas.
The meeting was told that up-gradation of Main Line-1 and establishment of Dry Port near Havelian is an early harvest project which is to be completed by 2025.
The Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC) will consider the $3.4 billion–phase-1 of up-gradation of Pakistan Railways’ Main Line-1 and the establishment of a dry port near Havelian projects under the CPEC in April (current month) after the completion of the preliminary design.
With the up-gradation of ML-1, train speed will increase from the current 65-105 km to 120-160 km, line capacity from 34 to 171 trains each way per day, freight volumes from 6 to 35 millions tons per annum by 2025, the share of freight transport volume from less than 4 percent to 20 percent.
The upgrade will enhance speed, reduce travel time, and enhance the number of trains per day and hence will generate more revenue and will decrease the burden on roads. The upgrade will be in two phases and preferences will be determined on the basis of continuity of operations and condition of tracks.
Establishment of a new rail link from Gwadar to Mastung and Besima to Jacobabad is a mid-term project to begin in 2025 and end by 2030 and establishing a new rail link from Havelian to Khunjerab is a long-term project which will commence in 2030.
The Committee was told that the feasibility study and land acquirement for the mid-term project has been done and Pakistan Railways will be in a position to start the project as early as financing is received. The long-term project, however, is in its early stages of feasibility.