Third Leg of CPEC Infrastructure: $7.2Bn Rail Upgrade Inches Forward

Another strategic project on the front burner is two hydel power projects with investment of $3.5 billion

Pakistan China Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority Chairman Lt General (rtd) Asim Saleem Bajwa took to microblogging website Twitter on Wednesday and said a great deal of groundwork has been done to launch phase two of the multibillion dollar project.

“The pace of work on the project has recently picked up and the scope of the project has enhanced”, he added.

Mr. Bajwa said the upcoming projects include $7.2 billion ML-1 Railway project, two hydel power projects with investment of $3.5 billion, special economic zones (SEZs) and agricultural projects.

The brasstack of the second phase of CPEC is the strategic rail project ML-1 which once implemented, will complete the third leg of the massive trade autobahn: first leg being the Gwadar seaport for shipping in and out, and the second leg being the roadways and the highways network from Gawadar to Chinese border meandering through provinces and cities.

The 1900km rail upgrade would cover a long tract from Karachi in south to Peshawar in north via Hyderabad, Nawabshah, Rohri, Rahimyar Khan, Bahawalpur, Khanewal, Sahiwal, Lahore, Gujrawala, Rawalpindi, Peshwar.

Work will be carried out by financing possibly through Chinese Government Concessional Loan (GCL). Work will be awarded through open bidding as per PPRA rules through EPC contract, a report on CPEC website said.

Latest report says citing an official in the Planning Minister that 90 per cent of total cost of the project would be funded by China.

The rehabilitation and upgradation of the Karachi-Lahore Peshawar Railway track will cost approx $7.2 billion, said Mr. Bajwa, which comes out to be roughly $3.8 million per km.

The original estimate shown on the website was $8.2 billion, which would have come out to be $4.32 million per km.

Some reports say the scope and budgeted cost were scaled down thru reviews and hard dollar negotiations.

The government is expecting that groundbreaking of the project would be held by February-March 2021 with implementation period of 9 years and shall be executed in three phases.

The scope of work includes but is not limited to the following: Doubling of entire track from Karachi to Peshawar; Speed of passenger trains to be raise from 65/110km/h to 160 km/h; Freight trains to operate at 120 km/h; Computer based signaling and control system; and Grade separation to ensure safety of train operations.

Pakistan has also established a special security force/division of the armed forces to ensure security of CPEC and its projects.