ML-1 to be completed in five years
Pakistan and China inked an agreement on Sunday to upgrade the Mainline-1 (ML-I) Peshawar to Karachi railway track.
Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad and Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing signed the declaration for the preliminary design of the phase one of the ML-1 project.
Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang witnessed the signing ceremony.
Under the agreement, Pakistan Railways and China’s National Railway Administration would start working on the project.
The final agreement on the project’s cost, financing and the available resources and options will be signed later.
The ML-1 project will be completed in the next five years. A 1,872km-long track from Peshawar to Karachi will be laid out in addition to the existing one – turning it into a double track route– at a cost of $8.2 billion. The track will be fenced under the project. Bridges and crossings will also be constructed.
The project will increase the speed of passenger trains from the current 65km-110km per hour to 160km per hour, while freight trains will be operated at 120km per hour.
The travel time from Rawalpindi to Karachi will reduce from 22 hours to 10 hours. A train will reach Lahore from Rawalpindi in just 2.5 hours. The number of trains will double with the completion of the project. The freight share will increase to 20% which is currently less than 4%.
The track will have a computer-based signalling and control system as well as a grade separation to ensure the safety of train operations. The main line will cover Karachi to Peshawar via Hyderabad, Nawabshah, Rohri, Rahimyar Khan, Bahawalpur, Khanewal, Sahiwal, Lahore, Gujran-wala, Rawalpindi and Peshawar.
The ML-1 project is expected to create 20,000 direct and 150,000 indirect jobs.
It will be completed in three phases.
Under phase-I of the project, four sections will be completed in a period of three to four years. Except for one, almost all these section will be built from Rawalpindi to Lahore.
A 52-km-long second line for running 120km per hour high-speed train will be constructed from Kaluwai to Pindora. The other sections include upgrading of Nawabshah-Rohri section of 183km, Lalamusa-Rawalpindi section of 118km, and Lahore-Lalamusa section of 132km. The upgrading of Walton Railway Academy with a reduced scope is also part of phase one.
In the second phase that will also take over three years to complete, Multan-Lahore section and Kaimari-Hyderabad section will be constructed. The dry port at Havelian will also be part of the second phase but its scope has been reduced.
In the third phase, Pakistan and China have agreed to construct a Rawalpindi-Peshawar section and Hyderabad-Multan section.