The National Economic Council approved the upgradation of Pakistan Railways’ Mainline-1 (ML-1) at an estimated cost of $6.806bn, The News reported on Wednesday. 

The project, which equals to Rs11.44 trillion in total, and involves the upgradation of the Walton Academy, is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. 

“Update ML-1:Alhamdolillah, ECNEC has approved the transformational railway project at a cost of$ 6.806 Bn from Peshawar to Kci(1872 KMs) including Havelian Dry Port and upgrading Walton Academy,” tweeted Gen (retd) Asim Bajwa.

However, the PML-N remained unimpressed with the development, stating that the project had been given the green light in 2016 with China and its technical feasibility had been completed in 2018. PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal said he is pleased that finally Ecnec (Executive Committee of the National Economic Council) has approved the ML-1 project after delay of two years but token allocation of Rs6 billion in the budget is inadequate to start the project.

The project of Pakistan Railways for “upgradation of Pakistan Railways existing Mainline-1 (ML-1) and establishment of dry port near Havelian” was also approved by Ecnec at the cost of $6,806.783 million on a cost-sharing basis between the governments of China and Pakistan. The execution of the project shall be in three packages and in order to avoid commitment charges, the loan amount for each package will be separately contracted. Under this project, the existing 2,655km track will be upgraded. 

The speed of passenger trains shall increase from 65/110 km/hr to 165 km/hr and line capacity will increase from 34 to 137/171 trains each way per day. A project steering committee for effective supervision and implementation of the project will be formed by the Ministry of Railways.

Ecnec approved the Pakistan Single Window (PSW) project, FBR shall be the sponsoring agency for this project. The total cost of the project shall be Rs11,074.16 million including Rs9,020 million as FEC. The project shall be completed by June 2023 and it is expected to enhance Pakistan’s global ranking in cross border trade related indicators. 

It will also serve as the integration point bridging cargo/logistics systems and other trade related processes. The ML-1 will provide an automated single-entry centralised hub for submission and processing of 90% of the licences, permits, certificates and other documents (LPCOs) for external trade.

Ecnec also approved the change in cost sharing ratios of the ADB and its co-financing partners for “Construction of BRT Red Line Project, Karachi” at the total cost of Rs78,384.33 million including FEC of Rs66,378.33 million (with cattle based bio-methane as fuel technology). The project was already approved by Ecnec on August 29, 2019.

The PhD scholarship programme under US-Pakistan Knowledge Corridor (phase-1) was also approved by Ecnec at the revised cost of Rs25,226.274 million including FEC of Rs24,303.543 million. In the revised PC-1, the scope of the project has been curtailed to 1000 scholarships (from 1,500 scholarships) mainly due to appreciation of dollar rate against Pak-rupee and inclusion of tuition fee/ research grant.

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