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Pakistan & China agrees to amend railways ML-1 accord

Pakistan & China agrees to amend railways ML-1 accord

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and China have agreed to amend a framework accord on implementation of multibillion dollars mainline-I project of the Pakistan Railways in a bid to reduce the size of the much-delayed strategically important scheme and to complete it in three phases.

According to media reports, the decision to split the project, which was once planned to be completed in three years, suggests that work on the single-largest project of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will now take at least six years to complete – from the day of its groundbreaking.

It has been agreed to reduce the length of the project from 1,872km to around 1,680 km, according to the government sources. The government has also decided to exclude the component of building a new 163km long double line between Karachi and Hyderabad from the scope of the framework agreement.

It has been decided that this component will be executed on Public-Private Partnership or Build Operate and Transfer Basis if declared feasible after the commercial and financial feasibility study, said sources in the Ministry of Railways.

Similarly, the Havelian-Textile rail track has also been excluded from the project. The ML-I project will be completed on the Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) mode under a sovereign deal.

But like the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government, the government of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PT) has also failed to decide whether the Chinese loan for the ML-I project will be taken on the books of the Finance Ministry or that of the Ministry of Railways. In case the loan is taken on the books of the Finance Ministry, its servicing will also be the responsibility of the federal government.

An addendum to framework agreement will be signed to amend the Article-II to implement the ML-I project in three phases. According to sources in the Ministry of Planning and Development, the supplement agreement will be signed during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s upcoming visit to China. Khan will visit China on April 27 on an invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The original plan was to construct and upgrade the rail infrastructure between Peshawar and Karachi in two phases and to complete it by 2022. However, so far, both the sides are at the stage of finishing the feasibility study.