3 railway projects included in CPEC: Saad

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ISLAMABAD – Shahiwal coal project is in final stage of its completion and Pakistan Railways will resume the coal supply for the coal-based power plant by the end of January 2017.

“Pakistan Railway service under the Sahiwal Coal project would start by end of the current month and the first train from Karachi would leave on January 26,” said Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique while addressing a press conference here on Thursday. Talking about the recent sixth Pak-China Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC), the minister said that it was a successful trip. He said that three new railway projects including Karachi Circular, Peshawar Mass Transit and Quetta Mass Transit projects have also been included in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The minister said that China had referred the three projects to its transport working group that would evaluate them and submit recommendations before the JCC in next meeting scheduled to be held after six months. He said that approximately three million people will get benefit from the Quetta mass Transit train system. About Peshawar Mass Transit, he said this project possess grat importance as it will connect Peshawar with Charssada, Nowshera and Mardan.

He said that the infrastructure of Pakistan Railways will be used for the execution of these three projects. The federal government would provide all possible help for the execution of the projects and will offer expertise of Pakistan Railways’ serving and retired employees for the purpose. However, he said that Orange Line Project is the project of the government of Punjab.

He said, “Our first priority is to connect Gwadar with the National Railways tracks and Pak-China join working group has been constituted for the connection of Gwadar with the railway network.” He said that ML-1 is an important component of multi-billion dollars CPEC projects and China has agreed to provide a long term loan on most favourable terms for the up-gradation of ML-1 from Karachi to Peshawar.

The Minister said both Pakistan and China have also established working groups for the up-gradation of the rail line. The negotiations will start by mid January and an agreement with China would be signed soon. He said a feasibility study of the ML-I had already been completed, while its second phase would complete in May 2017. After the completion of up-gradation work of Karachi-Peshawar track (ML-I), he said trains would run at a speed of 160 kilometers per hour instead of current 65-120 Kilometer per hour. The increase in speed will also increase the number of trains from current 32 trains per day to 171 trains, the minister added. Replying a question, he said that first component of railway under CPEC will be completed in next five years.

The minister also announced that Kohat-Rawalpindi railway services will be once again functional during 2017. This service was suspended due to terrorism and other law and order situation for the last decade. He said all railway stations, falling between the 132 kilometer track between Kohat and Rawalpindi, would be upgraded besides a quota for Kohat passengers, wishing to catch Karachi-bound trains from Rawalpindi, would be allocated. He said that the project of rail connection with China through Khunjarab is in the third phase of the CPEC. The minister said that 55 latest locomotives were being procured from China, out of which seven would arrive by end of this month, while the remaining would reach in a period of three months. Replying a query related to Islamabad-Muzaffarabad train service, the minister replied that as per the initial estimate, the project linking Islamabad-Murree-Muzaffarabad will cost Rs175 billion and the feasibility study of the project had already been completed.

The minister rejected the idea of utilising the railway land for building housing societies and said that railway land would not be utilised for setting up employees housing colonies, instead the land would be used for railway operations and commercial activities to generate revenue.

Taking credit for the improvement in the condition of Pakistan Railways, the minister said that during last three and a half years, the Ministry of Railways didn’t get any bailout package.