Pakistan deferred Major Railway Project.

ML-1, or Mainline-1, is a crucial railway project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative. It aims to upgrade and modernize the existing railway infrastructure along the main line between Karachi and Peshawar, which spans approximately 1,872 kilometers. This project holds immense significance for Pakistan’s transportation sector and overall economic development.

China’s willingness to complete the ML-1 project under CPEC demonstrates the strong bilateral relationship between China and Pakistan, as well as China’s commitment to supporting Pakistan’s infrastructure development. As part of the CPEC framework, China offered funding and expertise to execute the project, recognizing its importance for enhancing connectivity and fostering economic growth in Pakistan.

The benefits of the ML-1 project for Pakistan are multifaceted. Firstly, it would significantly improve the efficiency and capacity of Pakistan’s railway network, allowing for faster and more reliable transportation of both passengers and cargo. This enhanced connectivity would facilitate trade and commerce within Pakistan and with neighboring countries, stimulating economic activities and driving growth.

Moreover, the modernization of the railway infrastructure under ML-1 would lead to a safer and more comfortable travel experience for passengers, encouraging more people to utilize rail transport. This shift towards rail transport could alleviate congestion on roads, reduce carbon emissions, and contribute to sustainable development goals.

Additionally, ML-1 has the potential to create employment opportunities and spur economic development along the railway corridor, benefiting local communities and contributing to poverty alleviation efforts.

By improving connectivity and transportation efficiency, ML-1 would not only boost economic activities but also promote regional integration and cooperation. It would strengthen Pakistan’s position as a key transit route for trade between China, Central Asia, and the Middle East, further enhancing its geopolitical significance.

ML-1 represents a transformative project with far-reaching benefits for Pakistan’s economy and society. Its successful implementation would enhance connectivity, facilitate trade, create jobs, and promote sustainable development, ultimately contributing to the prosperity and well-being of the Pakistani people.

On Wednesday, Pakistan decided to defer approval for the Mainline-I (ML-I) project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), valued at $6.7 billion or Rs1.9 trillion. This decision came after concerns were raised regarding the reduced scope and changed design, which were deemed to render the strategic project “unviable”.

The Central Development Working Party (CDWP), tasked with reviewing major development schemes, expressed objections over the project’s design, scope, and financial model during the meeting.

The approval postponement occurred while Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal was in Beijing, and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar’s visit to China was scheduled for the following week.

Due to Pakistan’s weak financial condition, Beijing requested a one-third reduction in project costs to $6.7 billion. However, this reduction made the project economically unfeasible, according to Planning Commission officials.

The project underwent compromises, including a reduction in speed from 160 kilometers per hour to 120 kilometers per hour, decreased line capacity by reducing train frequency, exclusion of rolling stock, compromised axle load, and deletion of fencing, as outlined by officials.

It was concluded that with these changes and the associated high costs, the project lacked viability. Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Dr. Jehanzeb Khan, instructed authorities to reassess the project’s viability at the revised speed of 120 kilometers per hour.

The authorities were tasked with revalidating the business plan and confirming whether the Ministry of Finance could issue sovereign guarantees for the $5.8 billion Chinese loan.

If these issues are addressed, the CDWP will reconsider the project for approval the following Wednesday.

Despite these setbacks, it’s crucial to recognize the significance of railway systems in economic growth, particularly for a country like Pakistan. ML-1’s importance lies in its potential contribution to the country’s development, enhancing connectivity, and fostering economic activity.

Railways are integral to economic activities, offering an efficient, safe, and rapid mode of transportation. Many nations worldwide are prioritizing the modernization of their railway systems.

For Pakistan, the neglect of this vital aspect since independence has led to the deterioration of its railway infrastructure, built primarily during British rule. ML-1, as part of CPEC, offered an opportunity to revitalize Pakistan’s railway system with Chinese funding and expertise.

While the deferment of the ML-1 project may be disappointing, it’s essential to remain optimistic about future prospects. Addressing concerns and ensuring the project’s viability will pave the way for sustainable development and modernization in Pakistan’s railway sector, contributing to the countries overall growth and prosperity.

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