Pakistan and China have reportedly reached a consensus to revise the cost of the Mainline-1 (ML-1) project to approximately $6.6 billion, with an amended project design slated for submission to Pakistan by October 31.
ML-1 comprises a 1,872-kilometer railway track connecting Karachi to Peshawar traversing Sindh and Punjab provinces. The project involves upgrading and doubling the track, laying a new one with an improved subgrade for speeds of up to 160 km/h, all as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
According to a report by Dawn, Pakistan’s Communications Secretary, Khurram Agha, who leads the Joint Working Groups (JWG) for Aviation, Railways, and Infrastructure within CPEC, along with Railways Secretary Mazhar Ali Shah, is scheduled to attend a JWG meeting in Beijing. The purpose of this meeting is to finalize cost estimates and address associated matters.
If agreed by both sides, the adjusted cost of the ML-1 project will stand at around $6.6 billion, a notable decrease from the earlier estimate of $9.8 billion due to delays. This cost revision is attributed to China’s flexibility and modifications in project design, coupled with Pakistan’s willingness to independently develop certain segments, further contributing to cost savings.
An official announcement regarding this development is expected during the forthcoming visit of Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister, Anwaarul Haq Kakar, to China on October 18. During this visit, he will participate in annual events related to China’s One Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
In addition to the cost revision for the ML-1 project, China and Pakistan will also discuss four previously delayed projects, including the Mirpur-Muzaffarabad-Mansehra Motorway, Zhob-Dera Ismail Khan Motorway, and Babusar Top. Formal negotiations on these projects are scheduled to take place during JWG meetings in the coming week.
These developments were reviewed during a recent meeting on CPEC projects, where the caretaker Minister for Planning and Development, Mohammad Sami Saeed, urged all ministries and divisions to expedite CPEC projects.