Pakistan, China to sign loan agreement for CPEC’s ML-1 rail project

 Pakistan, China to sign loan agreement for CPEC’s ML-1 rail project

The ambitious Main Line-1 (ML-1) project of Pakistan Railways, a flagship venture aimed at modernizing the country’s railway infrastructure, is on the brink of a significant milestone. According to Amir Ali Baloch, Chief Executive Officer of Pakistan Railways (PR), all aspects of the project have been meticulously ironed out, barring the finalization of loan terms with the Chinese authorities.

In an exclusive conversation with Dawn on Saturday, Mr. Baloch revealed that the upcoming government would be responsible for concluding the terms and conditions related to the loan pledged by Beijing for the ML-1 project. He clarified that this process would entail government-to-government discussions, culminating in the signing of a loan agreement that delineates crucial details such as the interest rate and repayment period.

Despite the pending loan agreement, Mr. Baloch assured that substantial progress had been made. He confirmed that all other facets of the project had been settled, with an addendum even signed regarding the agreed cost. Notably, the ML-1 project, which falls under the umbrella of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), underwent a cost rationalization process, with the revised estimate standing at $6.678 billion, down from $9.85 billion. This revised cost was endorsed during an addendum signing ceremony on the sidelines of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) forum in October 2023.

Under the revised plan, the ML-1 project encompasses three phases, spanning a total length of 1,726 kilometers. These phases cover key routes from Karachi to Peshawar, with upgraded speeds of up to 140 kilometers per hour, potentially extendable to 160 kilometers per hour upon completion of necessary track enhancements.

Furthermore, Mr. Baloch shed light on Pakistan Railways’ ongoing modernization efforts, revealing plans to expand the department’s state-of-the-art restaurant-on-wheels initiative to three express trains within the next few months. This initiative aims to enhance passenger experience and comfort, reflecting PR’s commitment to innovation and service excellence.

As Pakistan inches closer to realizing the transformative potential of the ML-1 project, collaboration with China remains pivotal. The impending finalization of loan terms signifies a crucial juncture in Pakistan-China relations, underlining the mutual commitment to infrastructure development and economic cooperation. With a resilient partnership and strategic vision, Pakistan Railways is poised to usher in a new era of efficiency and connectivity for the nation’s railway network.

News Desk

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