BY: Hanif ullah in Pakistan : A railway track, spanning 145 kilometers, from Peshawar to Jalalabad is likely to be laid soon. Authorities are in the process of awarding contract for this ambitious project.
Until now, seven national and international companies have shown interest in the project, according to officials associated with the project.
The government of Pakistan has allocated 620 million rupees in the budget of fiscal year 2015-16 for the preparation of feasibility report, which will be prepared in nine months.
The process of laying tracks is expected to begin in 2017-18, officials told Afghan Zariza.
Once the railway track is ready, experts believe the bilateral trade between the two neighboring countries will receive much-need fillip.
A statement issued by the railway authorities in Pakistan said there is full consensus on the implementation of this project.
Seven national and international companies have submitted tenders, which include NESpak, Mines Construction, Mine Hart, ILF (LIK), MMBP, Usmania Associates Karachi and a company from China.
According to sources, Usmania Associates (Karachi) has emerged as a frontrunner to win the contract.
Engineers from Pakistan and Afghanistan will be jointly involved in the preparation of feasibility report and feasibility study of the project.
To ensure smooth and hassle-free work and to protect people working on the project, an elaborate security plan has been put in place.
In Pakistan, security forces, frontier constabulary, khassadars and levies will be deployed. In Afghanistan, Afghan National Army (ANA) shall provide security to engineers and field workers.
Habib ul Hassan, an expert, welcomed the initiative taken jointly by the two countries. “The old track is dilapidated and its repair is virtually impossible, so laying new tracks is the right thing to do,” he said.
Pakistani government has taken many steps to improve trans-national service. Recently, train service was started with Iran, which goes from Quetta to Taftan and back again to Quetta.
Zia ul Haq Sarhadi, Director of Afghan-Pak Joint Chamber of Commerce, is keeping his fingers crossed.
“There is no guarantee whether this project will materialize as Pakistan had earlier abrogated the Afghan transit trade from Karachi to Peshawar at the cost of Pakistan railways,” he said.
According to him, between 1965 and 2010, Afghan transit trade was done through railways, which proved profitable. But due to bureaucratic hassles, the trade was stopped and Pakistan railways suffered heavy loss.
Now, most of the Afghan trade flows through Bandarabad and Chabahar port in Iran.