Lahore: According to a news outlet, after resolving all technological, administrative, and other problems, the Chinese government has sent Pakistan’s first modern railway infrastructure project, Main Line-1 (ML-1), to the Exim Bank of China for approval of a $6 billion loan, paving the way for civil work on the scheme to begin this year.

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Pakistan Railways Federal Secretary and Railway Board Chairman Dr. Habibur Rehman Gillani told that “The latest on the $6.8 billion ML-1 projects is that a finance committee comprising Chinese officials has sent the case related to $6 billion loan approval of the project to Exim Bank. Since the remaining $800 million will be provided by the government of Pakistan as equity, the total $6.8 billion will be spent on completion of the entire rail-related infrastructure, mainly the line, fencing, civil works, etc,”

The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved the three-phase construction of the ML-1 project in August of last year. The project’s initial cost was $9 billion, including the Pakistani government’s equity contribution. Later, it was eventually reduced to $6.8 billion.

Mr. Gillani said that once the loan was authorized by the Exim bank, the project would be forwarded to the Chinese ministries in charge of railways and planning and development. This whole process will take a few months, after which the ministry will be able to begin the international bidding / tendering process for the project’s execution.

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The project includes upgrading ML-1 from Karachi to Peshawar and Taxila to Havelian (1,872 km), laying of a new track with improved subgrade for 160 km/h, rehabilitation and construction of bridges, provision of modern signaling and telecom systems, conversion of level crossings into underpasses/flyovers, track fencing, and upgrade of Walton Train (Lahore).

It will generate 24,000 direct jobs (20,000 local labor/technical experts and 4,000 Chinese experts) and cut the time it takes to fly from Karachi to Lahore in half, from 18 to 10 hours.

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