China is not ready to add Pakistan Railways’ Main Line (ML-2), a strategic route passing through major power plants, to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) due to a low business case, said Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique.
“China has increased the finances for Pakistan Railways from an initial $3.7 billion to around $8 billion for up-gradation of ML-1 under the CPEC package, as it carries about 70 per cent traffic and has a business viability,” said the minister briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Railways. The committee met with Naveed Qamar in the chair here on Thursday.
The minister said that Pakistan Railways with its own finances has carried out a feasibility study and decided to offer it on build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis. The ministry is preparing a request for proposal (RFP) and it would soon invite foreign and local companies while issuing an expression of interest (EoI).
The committee members underscored the need for including the ML-2 in the CPEC; however, the minister said the decisions are not being taken by a single country but with mutual consensus. The committee expressed serious concern over unabated train accidents in the country, claiming many precious lives, besides causing huge financial losses.
It requires emergency measures to minimise the number of train accidents, said Qamar, adding that routine working is not sufficient and the people are not ready to hear explanations by railways anymore. The committee also expressed annoyance for not making inquiry reports of train accidents public.
The railways officials said that 447 train accidents occurred during 2014-16 wherein 74 persons died and 118 others received injuries. Saad Rafique said that short-, medium- and long-term measures have been taken to control train accidents. Pakistan Railways has started profiling of all drivers, assistant drivers and gatekeepers. The physical and mental examination of drivers would be carried out, he said.
Furthermore, a PC-1 of a new project worth Rs 730 million has been submitted to the Planning Division for an effective communication system. Under the project, effective communication between ground staff and locomotive crew would be ensured through provision of better communication device (VHF radio).
The minister said that SoPs for military trains have been revised and special SoPs are put in place keeping in view the law and order situation to ensure maximum safety of these trains.
He further said the matter of up-gradation of existing unmanned level crossings has been taken up with provincial governments. Manned level crossings be further upgraded with a provision of signals while tracking/ monitoring of trains through GPS/ location devices is also under process. In the long-term, the Railways would set up joint control rooms manned by Railways and government security agencies in areas having law and order situation.
The committee was also briefed on Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for different projects and its utilisation in the current fiscal year. The committee was informed that Rs 41 billion were earmarked in the budget for 2016-17 and Rs 9.39 billion have so far been released.
The committee observed that the releases are slow and if situation persists so in the last quarter, the ministry will have to surrender the money. The committee recommended the Ministry of Finance to release the funds for the said projects in due time for timely completion of projects. The committee also decided to write a letter to Finance Ministry for early releases.