ISLAMABAD (Eshfak Mughal): Pakistan has proposed to reduce the cost of much awaited Main Lane 1 (ML 1) railway project by $3.2 billion to $6.6 billion through redesigning of the project.
Reliable sources in the Railways Ministry told the scribe that the Pakistan and China has agreed on framework agreement of ML1 project worth $9.8 billion; however, the Ministry of Railways has redesigned the project to reduce the cost of the mega project to $6.6 billion.
The Ministry of Railways has reduce operational speed of the trains on ML 1 from 160 to 140 to 120 KM per hour. The reduction in the speed of the trains gave some breathing space to the government to decrease the total cost of the mega project, sources said.
Sources said that the former PTI government had reduced the cost of the project to $6.6 billion as they estimated lower rates. The Chinese government was not agreed on the cost that’s why the project was in shelved. However, the Shehbaz Government has re engaged the Chinese government to start the project. They reduced the scope of the project but they increased the rates, sources further said.
While elaborating the scope of the project, the sources said that the only necessary railways bridges will be replaced instead of the all bridges, according to the proposed scope. Only overhead or underpass will be built in cities areas on the railway track to reduce the cost, according to the revised design.
The Ministry has proposed to build double track only in the area where it would be necessary.
Both governments will sign addendum during the upcoming Belt and Road Forum, to be held on Oct 16 17 in China. There is no confirmation that the Chinese government has agreed on the redesigning of the ML 1 project, sources told the scribe.
The mega projects will be completed in sixteen years through three phases, according to the revised design. The project likely to start from next year and will be completed up to 2040.
The sources revealed that the sovereign guarantee on the project would be main challenge for the Pakistani government to get international financing. They said that Pakistan has to provide sovereign guarantee on the project of $3 billion of the first phase of the project.
According to the rules, the Pakistan government can only give sovereign guarantee worth $2 billion of the GDP. What would be for other projects, if the government gives this guarantee, sources further claimed?
The total length of the project was estimated around 1700 KM of the ML 1. Under the revised plan, the cost of the first package was estimated $2.7 billion and will be completed in five years. 183 KL long Nawabshah to Rohri track, 339 KM track from Lahore to Multan, 132 KM Lahore to Lala Musa section will be upgraded under the first package.
The cost of the second package will be $2.6 billion which is expected to complete in seven years. 182 KL section from Kemari to Haiderabad, 556 KM section from Haiderabad to Multan will be upgraded.
The Ministry has estimated the revised cost of the third package around $1.2 billion which will be completed in four years. 165 KL LalaMusa to Pindi, and 176 KL Pindi to Peshawar section will be upgraded under the third and final phase of the project, sources further said.
The Havelian Dry Port will be established under the third package of the project.
The sources also questioned on the rationale of the ML 1 and said that the government has planned to increase the number of trains from 34 to 134 through the mega project. This is question of millions of dollars that how the government will increase the capacity and what will be utilization of the capacity, they said.