Minister for Railways Khawja Saad Rafique Thursday said three more railway projects were being included in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Addressing a news conference here, he said Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), Quetta Mass Transit and Peshawar Mass Transit schemes were being made part of the CEPC, which was considered a game-changer project not only for Pakistan but for the entire region.
Recently, he said, a high level delegation of Pakistan, including chief ministers of Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, had visited China and participated in the sixth Pak-China Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) conference deliberated on CPEC related projects.
Terming the visit a `useful trip,’ the minister said the Chinese partners had given a positive signal for the projects and the three CMs exhibited a collective wisdom during the conference and further improved the country’s image abroad.
He said the federal government would provide all possible assistance in carrying out the provincial projects for benefit of the common man, offering expertise of Pakistan Railways’ serving and retired employees for successful execution of the schemes.
Saad said China had referred the three projects to its transport working group that would evaluate them and submit recommendations before the JCC in next meeting scheduled to be held after six months.
He said there was a significant development on upgradation of the ML-I track as accordingly an agreement with China would be signed soon, besides the Gwadar deep seaport would be connected with the national railway network.
After upgradation of the Karachi-Peshawar track (ML-I), the minister said trains would ply at a speed of 160 kilometers per hour instead of 65-120 kph, adding that it would also increase Pakistan Railways capacity to run trains from 32 trains to 171 per day.
He said a feasibility study of the ML-I had already been completed in December last, while its second phase would complete in May this year. The minister said both Pakistan and China had formed working groups, which would start holding meetings from mid of the current month, and declared the ML-I upgradation a ‘strategic project.’ Saad said the setting up of Havelian Dry Port was also part of the project.
The minister said Pakistan Railway service under the Sahiwal Coal project would start by end of the current month, adding that most probably the first train would leave on January 26 from Karachi to collect coal.
He said 55 latest locomotives were being procured from China, out of which seven would arrive by end of this month, while the remaining would reach in a period of three months.
Answering a question, Saad said the suspended Railcar service between Kohat and Rawalpindi would be restored as per commitment of the Prime Minister by this year.
He said all railway stations, falling between the 132 kilometre track between Kohat and Rawalpindi, would be upgraded besides a quota for Kohat passengers, wishing to catch Karachi-bound trains from Rawalpindi, would be allocated.
Replying to another question, the minister said feasibility study for the train service between Islamabad-Murree-Muzaffarabad had already been completed, for which as per initial estimate Rs 175 billion were required.
In reply to another question, Saad categorically said that railway land would not be utilized for setting up housing colonies for its employees, saying that the land would only be used for railway operations and commercial activities to generate revenue.
During the last three and a half years, he said, the Ministry of Railways got no bailout package contrary to the past practices rather it improved its efficiency and increased the revenue generation from Rs 18 billion to Rs 36 billion.