Sheikh’s views on ML-1

Addressing a press conference in Lahore, Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad disclosed that international tenders shall be floated on September 12 for the Main Line One (ML-1) project to upgrade 1782 kilometer long railway track between Peshawar and Karachi. The major project under CPEC had hit snags for certain reasons. The framework agreement of ML-1 was signed by the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at an estimated cost of $9.2 billion in his visit of China on May 15, 2017. The transparency issues and highly inflated cost of ML-1 project invited sharp critique from multilateral donor agencies, citing debt sustainability capacity of Pakistan’s stagnated economy, PTI government focused on removing the factors that was delaying the execution of this project. The mandatory procedural requirement was fulfilled to ensure transparency. The cost of ML-1 was reduced from $9.2 billion to $6.806 billion; cleared from CDWP, and finally got approved from ECNEC. The existing medium gauge railway track has become outmoded and bridges there on have completed their life. It explains the increasing number of accidents, claiming the lives of passengers on board. This is one of the reasons of decline in the number of passenger. Moreover, it abnormally delays the shipment of goods by freight trains. A cost effective, phase wise, plan had been approved for mainline railway track modernisation along with setting up assembling of diesel electric locomotive engines in 1985. Work on setting up locomotive factory was started at Risalpur near Nowshera in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa with financial and technical of Japan and it became operation in 1990. In the last PML-N government, the spare parts production and locomotive assembling activities came to standstill as the import of semi knockdown engine components was stopped. Over the past 12 years locomotive factory has become almost non-operational and is plagued by redundancy. The valuable technical infrastructure could not be utilised for assembly of locomotives, manufacturing of parts and components and repair of defective locomotives In majority of countries of the world, goods trains make this public utility organisation profit earning as passenger traffic incur losses. In Pakistan road transport lifts bulk of the goods trade. Hence railway is huge losses incurring entity. It will take a number of years when economy will break the recessionary cycle and special economic zones will become functional, leading to substantial increase in goods transportation by freight trains.