Road to ML-1


Very soon, the Mainline-1 (ML-1) project will reach the execution stage as the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council has okayed a project for improvement of the vital railway line construction estimated at Rs1.137 trillion. The game changer project will undertake the improvement of the existing ML-1 and establishment of a dry port near Havelian. The project demonstrated the rising economic bonds of China and Pakistan as both countries will execute the project on a cost-sharing basis. The project hit international headlines because of its huge investment and opposition to the project by the US. Of the estimated cost, about 90 per will be funded by Chinese banks through long-term loans. Both sides have yet to finalise loan terms. The project will boast the local construction sector as about 59 pc of the total cost will be spent on local material, equipment and labour while the remaining sum will be spent on imported machinery and equipment and consultancy. Pakistan Railway has gradually lost its infrastructure and reliability in the face of copprotion, losses and accidents. Over the years, there has been huge investment in motorways, highways and mass transit but the railways kept on chugging on its pre-Partitioned infrastructure. It failed to meet the modern time needs. Its existing 2,655 kilometer track is broken and aging and needs to be upgraded. The track does not allow passenger trains to run at even 100 per km, and the slow speed loses passengers. The improved track allows the train to run at 165km per hour and line capacity to 137/171 trains each way per day.
Such a huge investment needs to be undertaken wisely and transparently. For that reason, the railways ministry plans to make a project steering committee to supervise the implementation of the project under the Mainline-1 Authority. for smooth implementation of the Karachi-Peshawar rail track. Besides the ML-1 project, the railway must be run by an efficient administration. Though the government has approved a restructuring plan for the sector, which envisages four new companies, too many companies would make the affairs complex. The new plan has Railway Holding Company as an umbrella organisation, Freight Traffic Management Company, Passenger Traffic Mana­gement Company and Infrastructure Management Company. Moreover, there is a chunk (Karachi-to-Hyderabad) line which will be built under the public-private partnership. The government needs to be more transparent and clearer on the project and build a consensus on this great project.