Chinese companies eye $8b Pak Railway ML-I project

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As various developmental projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) kick off, various Chinese companies are eyeing the $8b ML-I project involving up gradation of Pakistan’s existing railway infrastructure. The interested companies include The China Railways Group – a Fortune 500 company known as CREC and China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), the largest international Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) contractor of Asia.

Pakistan would be picking one of the competing organisations for the ML-I project.

Officials from the two companies gave an overview of their future plans to a group of journalists from South Asia about their investment plans under the One-Belt One-Road Strategic Initiative. They also arranged visits to their completed Chinese projects including the world’s largest bridges, tunnels, roads and bullet trains.

Xu Meng, Deputy General Manager of Marketing Department of CCCC International, one of the companies bidding for the ML-I project highlighted the company’s interest in investing in Pakistan stating that the company is fully equipped to undertake the construction of railway infrastructure in Pakistan.

Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal, on Monday, is reported to have said that the financing agreement for ML-I project can be signed next month at the OBOR Summit scheduled to be held in Beijing next month.

Last year, Iqbal had announced the procurement of concessional loans from the China worth $5.5b for the expansion and renovation of Pakistan’s main rail link that connects north to south as part of its investment under CPEC. Moreover, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) had pledged support by providing $2.5b for financing the remaining cost of the project.

The CCCC was in negotiations with Pakistani authorities on financing and construction model of the ML-I project, informed the Deputy GM of CCCC. The CCCC is one of the world’s largest infrastructure companies besides being the largest international EPC contractor in Asia. The company is also engaged in work on the Karakorum Highway-II project of the CPEC and proposes to complete it in March 2020.

The CREC of China Railway Group, one of the world’s largest construction and engineering contractors has been pushing forward the ML-I Railway Upgrading and Reconstruction Project in Pakistan, company’s officials have been reported to have said. They also recognized South Asia as one of the major regions for marketing for the company.

The company official informed that the project would consist of two phases – the short-term scheduled to be completed by 2020 and long-term by 2030. The short-term planning has been subdivided into two stages Phase I to be finished in 2018 and Phase II, to be completed in 2020.  The long-term planning is Phase III, has an expected completion schedule of 2025 to 2030, said the company official further added.

The company revealed that it had set up a Preparatory Group of Pakistan ML-1 railway project that is actively promoting the project. The company is also in regular contact with relevant state ministers and commissions in both countries and is also undertaking preparatory work to be better prepared for the project.