ISLAMABAD - Progress on all projects under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) including up-gradation of Main Line-1 (ML) railway track is going smoothly and without any delay, Project Director (PD) of CPEC, Hassan Daud Butt Thursday said.

Talking to APP, he said progress of all the projects that were agreed by the both China and Pakistan during 7th Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) on CPEC held here on November 21, 2017 was on track as both sides were committed to complete the projects as early as possible.

Responding to a question regarding possible delay in the $8.2 billion ML-1 project, the project director said earlier due to huge implications in the project, the revised PC-1 of first phase got delayed, however he said ministry of railways had assured to submit the PC-1 of phase-1 by February 20, therefore groundbreaking of the project was likely to be launched in few months as per announcement made by Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal last month.

He said the ministry of planning had also sought time from cabinet committee on CPEC to discuss details of the project in next meeting and discussion would help further boosting the progress of project.

Giving details about preliminary design review of the project, Butt said work scope of phase-1 sub projects had already been completed. Similarly, he said work of standards and specifications, BOQs, and cost estimates both local and foreign had also been finalized.

He said now approval of PC-1 and award of Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) would be given on fast track to ensure ground breaking of the project as early as possible.

The phase-1 of ML-1 project consists of seven priority sub-projects with three contract packages including Lahore-Multan (334 km), Khanewal-Pindora (52 km), Nawabshah-Rohri (183 km), and Peshawar-Rawalpindig (159 km), Taxila-Havelian (55 km) while establishment of a dry port near Havelian is also part of the project.

Under the project the entire track from Karachi to Peshawar would be made doubled and speed of passenger trains would be raised from existing 80 km per hour to 160 km per hour while freight trains would run at speed of 120 km per hour.

Moreover, signaling and control system of railways would be computerized whereas safety of train operations would be ensured by grade separation.

After completion of the project, freight traffic would be increased from five to 25 million tons per annum by 2025, and passenger traffic is likely to be increased from 55 to 80 million passengers per annum, official documents available with APP suggested.

Keeping in view the importance of Railway sector, the government decided to include the ML-1 project in CPEC and in the 6th JCC meeting held in Beijing in 2016, this project was declared 'Strategic'. Framework Agreement on ML-1 was signed on May 15, 2017 while commercial contract for preliminary design was singed on May 2017, the documents added.

Replying to a question regarding progress on construction of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) under CPEC, Hassan Daud Butt said the governments of Pakistan and China were actively engaged for early completion of all nine SEZs in one each in federal capital, all provinces and special areas of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan, and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

He informed that a Chinese special business delegation was visiting Pakistan next month to review progress of CPEC projects . He said the delegation would interact with government officials, local trade bodies besides it would also visit all the provinces to ensure expedited work on SEZs.

Regarding progress on Karachi Circular Railway, he said government of Sindh and Chinese government were directly and actively engaged on the project to ensure early launch of groundbreaking of the project.