Federal Minister for Pakistan Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed Thursday said completion of Main Line-I (ML-I) project would provide employment opportunities to over 150,000 people as 90 percent labor and technical staff would be hired from inside the county.

Addressing a press conference here, he said that the project, biggest ever in the history of the country starting form Karachi and culminating at Peshawar would not only decrease unemployment in the country but would also boost the country’s economy.

Sheikh Rashid said the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) had approved the up-gradation of existing ML-1, 1780 kilo-meter and after completion, the train would run on the upgraded track at the speed of 160 kilo-meters per hour.

Built in 1861, the railway track due to its dilapidated condition resulted in severe accidents but now the track was going to upgrade that help mitigate railways mishaps, he added.

The Minister PR's said, “ML-I credit goes to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government and after its completion the number of passenger trains will also be increased from 34 to 140.”

He congratulated Prime Minister Imran Khan, Adviser to PM on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and Special Assistant to PM on Information and Broadcasting Asim Saleem Bajwa for showing special interest in the project and its timely commencement, he said.Under the project, that cost $6.80 billion, existing one line would also be turned into a double-track route to provide safe journey to the railways passengers.

Sheikh Rashid said the track was being upgraded on modern techniques that will allow trains to run at the speed of approximately 160 kilo-meter per hour. The track may also have the capacity to increase more speed in the future.

During the up-gradation of ML-I, the existing track available in good condition would be utilized for the rehabilitation of other branch lines across the country. The entire project would be carried out by Pakistan Railways engineers in collaboration with Chinese engineers, he maintained.

The Minister PR's added, “ML-I is just a beginning, Pakistan Railways will also upgrade ML-II, ML-III and ML-IV to improve the infrastructure in the country.”

People having land adjacent to track were being allowed to construct eight floor building to encourage private entrepreneurship.

He said that fencing would be ensured to secure the track and all the level crossings would be converted into flyover and underpasses besides upgrading signaling system to avoid accidents.

Sheikh Rashid said the construction work on ML-I would be initiated during this year and hopefully it would be completed in three years after floating its first tender to the Chinese firm.

To a query, he said the ministry was considering to include a railway track in ‘Nullah Leh’ project that would be completed on BoT basis (Build Operate Transfer). The people affected due to Nullah Leh project would also be compensated and provided with decent alternatives.

To another query, the Minister PR's said PML-N leadership should clear their position before NAB instead of blaming the government projects as the allegations leveled against them were very strong.

Opposition, despite playing its constitution role, was demanding of the government to abolish the National Accountability Bureau, but the PTI government would not spare anyone who looted the public money, adding that present government would complete his tenure.