Pakistan’s CDWP approves $6.7 billion ML-1 railway upgrade and dry port development project under CPEC

Pakistan’s Central Development Working Party (CDWP), on May 22, approved the revised PC-I for the ML-1 railway project, a critical part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) valued at $6.7 billion.

CDWP has now forwarded the plan to the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) for final approval, according to a statement released by Pakistan’s planning ministry. The development comes as Pakistan and China discuss the second phase of CPEC.

The ML-1 railway upgrade is among the biggest projects under the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), involving the rehabilitation and upgrading of the railway tracks from Karachi to Peshawar.

“The ML-1 project is proposed to be financed through foreign funding under the CPEC framework agreement,” said the statement. “Pakistan Railways infrastructure is more than a century old and has outlived its useful life.”

“The original track which was built in the late 19th century and early 20th century had been designed for low speeds and lesser axle loads which do not commensurate with the present-day loading patterns and desired speeds,” it added. “The Government of Pakistan aims to build necessary logistics facilities to support GDP growth and, in this regard, it intends to up-grade and modernize Pakistan Railways Network.”

Pakistan railway, a financial burden

The Ministry also noted that Pakistan Railways has become a financial burden on the national budget. The $6.7 billion ML-1 project aims to transform the railway into a more financially and socially viable entity.

The upgrade will include increasing the speed of passenger and freight trains, doubling tracks on main line sections, and boosting line capacity to facilitate rail links to Central Asian States, China, and other neighboring countries.

This comprehensive upgrade plan is essential to meet the government’s objective of building the necessary logistics facilities to support GDP growth.

ML-1 project

This large-scale project involves upgrading and doubling a 1,733-kilometer railway track from Karachi to Peshawar, alongside the installation of modern signaling and telecom systems. The railway tracks will be upgraded between several key sections: Nawabshah to Rohri, Multan to Lahore, Lahore to Lalamusa, Kemari to Hyderabad, Hyderabad to Multan, Lalamusa to Rawalpindi, Rawalpindi to Peshawar, and the Havelian Dry Port. Once completed, trains will be able to run at speeds of up to 140 kilometers per hour.

The project also entails complete grade separation and fencing, aiming to reduce travel times significantly: 10 hours between Lahore and Karachi, 2 hours and 45 minutes between Lahore and Rawalpindi, and 14 hours and 30 minutes between Karachi and Peshawar.

The project also includes the construction of 2,096 bridges and culverts, 1,300 kilometers of fencing, and 165 grade separation points.

The project promised to reduce transportation costs, enhance safety, and improve connectivity between rural and urban areas. It will also integrate road and rail networks across various economic hubs, including air, sea, and dry ports, creating high-speed, high-capacity transportation corridors that connect major regional trading partners.

The Chinese National Railway Administration pledged to collaborate closely with Pakistan Railways to initiate ground operations for the ML-1 project.

Other projects approved

The CDWP has also approved seven smaller projects worth Rs 82.2 billion and sent three projects worth Rs 9.2 billion to ECNEC for approval. Among these is the Muzaffarabad-Mansehra Expressway project, valued at Rs 58 billion, and the Mirpur-Mangla Road project, worth Rs 9.2 billion.

Here is a list of key projects:

Project 1 — Pakistan Railways’ existing ML-1 and establishment of a dry port near Havelian at a cost of $6.7 billion.

Project 2 — The second project is the construction of the Rathoua Haryam bridge across Reservoir Channel on Mirpur Islamgarh Road worth Rs9.23 billion.

Project 3 — The third project is the Muzaffarabad-Mansehra expressway worth Rs 58 billion.

Key Takeaways

  • Upgrading and doubling a 1,733-kilometer railway track from Karachi to Peshawar.
  • Installation of modern signaling and telecom systems.
  • Eight sections will be upgraded.
  • Post-upgrade, trains will run at speeds of up to 140 kilometers per hour.
  • Travel time from Lahore to Karachi: Reduced to 10 hours.
  • Travel time from Lahore to Rawalpindi: Reduced to 2 hours and 45 minutes.
  • Travel time from Karachi to Peshawar: Reduced to 14 hours and 30 minutes.
  • 2,096 bridges and culverts to be constructed.
  • 1,300 kilometers will be fenced and 165-grade separation points will be constructed to enhance safety and efficiency.

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