Pakistan has achieved yet another landmark under CPEC and one of the hundreds of projects granted to Pakistan by China has been launched today. PM Imran Khan inaugurated the upgraded Hassan Abdal Railway Station on Friday 6th November 2020. This railway station had been renovated after a massive 127 years of existence on the British brought policies and systems. Tied to the Main Line-1 project which is another one of the brainchildren of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), this amelioration is expected to streamline Pakistan’s railway system and accelerate the economic activity.

The Main Line-1 project will be fully executed with the coordination of China. After its completion, the distance between Karachi and Lahore will be covered in just about 7 hours which is usually spread over a tiring distance of almost 20 hours. At this event, Imran Khan highlighted the importance of this project giving a hope of provision of a lot of job opportunities through this project. Railway is a facility which is used by masses and specifically the lower and middle class in order to travel smoothly. However, Imran Khan, maintaining his usual spirit, did not forget to criticize the former governments for their inept behavior towards the development of the railway department.

This project will give better travelling facilities to the Sikh pilgrims who previously used to face a lot of problems going to their sacred statues. Imran Khan has undoubtedly achieved certain milestones for the Sikh community including the unforgettable and momentous Kartarpur Corridor for the Sikh Pilgrims coming from India to Pakistan every year for their religious activities. This Railway Station will prove to be another success for Khan in his achievements towards the Sikh community and will highlight his empathy for minorities in Pakistan.

Premier Imran Khan highlighted the importance of railways in his Naya Pakistan at this event. Trains are a cheap and comfortable mode of transportation for the poor people. This is exactly Imran Khan’s government promised the nation at the inauguration of Hassan Abdal Station. Expressing his dismay for not improving the system given to us by the British government, he vowed and expressed surety for improvising the railway system under his government.

Known for his work in the tourism department, Imran Khan also threw some light on the importance of tourism and how this project will help enhancing tourism sector. He said that if we improve our tourism industry, we will not even need to ask for loans from anyone anymore. He also conveyed his wish for Pakistan to never beg from anyone.

The Railway Minister Sheikh Rasheed himself reviewed the arrangements before the official inauguration ceremony. The reconstruction of the Hassan Abdal Railway Station has cost the budget of around Rs300 million. The British-era Railway Station has been refurbished to a two-storey structure, with 24,502 square feet of covered area. The boundary of the railway station covering a total area of 101,610 square feet, including passengers’ facilities, has also been enhanced.

The Railway Minister was notified about the facilities of the new and improved structure by the Divisional Superintendent Railways Syed Munawar Shah. Water plants and a new tube well have been constructed to provide clean and cold water to the passengers, while a 300 KV generator was installed for uninterrupted power supply at the Hassan Abdal Railway Station. A canteen and a cafe were set up near the waiting area.

This Railway Station is in actual a bifurcation of the Rehabilitation and Up-gradation of Karachi-Peshawar  (ML-1) Railway Track under CPEC. This project will broadly cover the doubling of entire railway track from Karachi to Peshawar, increasing speed of Freight Trains, digital signaling and control of railway system and ensuring safety of train operations. This project was initially proposed by the Ministry of Railways Pakistan to CPEC Authorities which was approved by the Chinese companies. Then, the Pakistan Railways were granted the implementation of this project.

Pakistan Railways had started inviting bids to tender for Pakistan’s first and biggest project, the ML-1, from 12th September 2020. These bids abetted Pakistan Railway Ministry to seek expression of interest for up-gradation of the ML-1 packages in EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) mode from eligible Chinese firms on the basis. The invitation for the bids had clearly mentioned that this project will be funded under CPEC financing arrangement through loan from Chinese Financial Institutions and partly funded by the Government of Pakistan. The Hassan Abdal Railway Station upgradation project is one such branch of the Main Line-1 project under CPEC.

The ML-I project was approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) in its meeting in first week of last month. Under a proposal the federal government had planned to contribute 10 per cent of the total cost of the project as its equity while 90pc cost was met by China under the CPEC.

Since the PR is responsible for providing right of way of the project, it has almost completed acquisition of the land required between Lalamusa-Pindora section. This has been done for changing of the route (realignment) that will reduce 20km of travel distance. The project involves laying of new track to allow 160km/per hour speeds for railways, rehabilitation and construction of bridges, provision of modern signaling and telecom systems, replacing level crossings with underpasses/flyovers, fencing of track, establishment of dry port near Havelian and upgrade of Walton Training Academy.

All these renovations and enhancements are undoubtedly adding up to Imran Khan’s list of positives amidst the economic turmoil he is facing. The ruling government has surely carried out impressive measures for the improvement of the Railway department. With the ongoing protests and rallies of the PDM and growing animosity from Opposition towards the government, this project has come off as a breath of fresh air for Imran Khan in the times of current crises.

By Ali Asad

The author is doing M. Phil in Public Policy and Governance. He is working  as a freelancer. Previously worked with HubPages and Washington Post.

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