Hundreds of Chinese workers working on the Karakoram Highway (KKH) in Pakistan canceled plans over the weekend to return to their hometowns and celebrate the Lunar New Year with their families, which fell on January 28. The workers stayed back to ensure the project is completed in a timely fashion.

The KKH, which is part of an arterial road running between Pakistan's north and south, is the only land route that connects China and Pakistan. Its restoration work is a flagship project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The first phase of the project, which included upgrading roads in the northern section of the KKH, was completed in 2013.

Work on the second phase, which includes new roads and a highway linking Havelian and Thakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, began in September 2016, Project Manager Hu Junquan, told Xinhua.

Junquan, who is with the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), has been working abroad for 15 years. He said that he had spent the Chinese Lunar New Year many times at project sites in foreign countries, away from home and family.

"I really feel bad for my family but I also appreciate them for understanding my job and duties," Junquan said.

At the KKH's second phase project site, some 900 Chinese workers stayed back at the beginning of the Year of Rooster, a year standing for punctuality in Chinese tradition.

To ensure the project's completion on schedule, the CRBC workers only had two half-day breaks during the festival and worked round the clock on all sections of the 118-kilometres-long road project.

According to Junquan, the project includes a total of 105 bridges and 67 tunnels to be constructed over a period of 42 months. Most of the construction is to be done in dangerous mountainous areas, the project manager added.

Harsh geographical conditions mean that Junquan and his colleagues have to be extra cautious while maneuvering through construction tasks.

Junquan said he and his team have painstakingly made some progress in building tunnels, such as the one in Abbottabad. He said only about half a metre of earth could be excavated in a day currently for the 1,700-metre-long tunnel.

"My Chinese colleagues are very, very hardworking. They are also very good people," Ehtisham Khan, a retired Pakistan Army major who now serves as a security coordinator at the project's main camp, told Xinhua.

Khan said that industrialisation is expected to expand once the KKH project is completed as it will facilitate movement between China and Pakistan's Gwadar region.

The condition of roads in the northern part of KKH have greatly improved, compared to decades ago when he went there as a soldier, the retired army major added.

According to Khan, about 700 ex-army officers have been reorganised as a police team to provide security to the enormous construction site.

According to Junquan , some 1,600 Pakistanis are also working in the field along all the construction sites from Havelian to Thakot.

The second phase of KKH is expected to be completed by February 2020, he said.

At that time, traveling time from Islamabad to Khunjerab, which borders China, will be shortened to a day as previously it would take at least two or three days to cross over.