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Government likely to lay railway line between Islamabad and Muzaffarabad
03-27-2014, 07:59 PM
Post: #1
Government likely to lay railway line between Islamabad and Muzaffarabad
Government likely to lay railway line between Islamabad and Muzaffarabad

Federal Government has reportedly decided to lay railway line from Islamabad to Muzaffarabad (Azad Jammu and Kashmir) via Murree aimed at promoting tourism and providing reliable route to Kashmiris. Though the details of the mega railway project are not yet available, it was hinted at during a recent meeting of Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) presided over by Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar.

During the meeting, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) was directed to share the design of Metro Bus Service (MBS) with the Ministry of Railways for their views/advice for making it consistent and compatible with the proposed rail link between Islamabad and Muzaffarabad via Murree.

This correspondent tried to get the viewpoint of Minister for Railways, Khawaja Saad Rafique on the project but he did not respond till the filing of this report. Official documents available with Business Recorder reveal that Ecnec was informed that the project envisaged the construction of 13.9 km long dedicated signal free corridor of 9.60 to 10.10 meters width at normal sections and from 19.00 to 21.10 meters wide at the MBS stations and trenches in Islamabad territory. The proposed corridor would be capable of accommodating articulated buses running simultaneously in both directions. The proposed alignment which was the second leg of the integrated the Rawalpindi-Islamabad MBS project would start from the IJP Road at Faizabad, where Rawalpindi portion would terminate, and would traverse through IJP Road, 9th Avenue, Jinnah Avenue and finally terminate at Pakistan Secretariat, Islamabad. The proposed scope of work including provision of 14 bus stations with allied facilities was also explained. Last week, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the projects along with Chief Minister Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif, who is the real brain behind this project.

Ecnec was further informed that the project for Rawalpindi-Islamabad MBS had been taken up keeping in view pressing needs of commuters for an efficient and modern public transport system between the twin cities and in the light of following directions of the prime minister in this regard.

The Metro Bus System would start from Flashman Hotel Rawalpindi and follow Murree Road up to Faizabad, wherefrom it would turn on IJP Road up to 9th Avenue. It would follow the 9th Avenue, cross Peshawar Morr and turn right on Jinnah Avenue up to parade ground from where it would go up to Pak Secretariat in a trench on the left side of parade ground. The entire project would be executed by the Rawalpindi Development Authority. The project would be financed on 50-50 cost sharing basis between the Federal Government and Government of the Punjab. The meeting was also informed that in compliance with the above decisions, the project would be executed by the RDA in both territories of Rawalpindi and Islamabad on equal cost sharing basis. It was explained that Rawalpindi portion would be sponsored by the Government of the Punjab, and the Islamabad portion by the Federal Government. The MBS of Rawalpindi portion was approved by the PDWP on February 4, 2014 at a total cost of Rs 18.026 billion.

It was stated that the CDWP in its meeting on March 13, 2014 considered the project and recommended it for the approval from Ecnec with the scope and cost rationalised by a committee headed by Secretary, Cabinet Division with its members from the Capital Development Authority (CDA), Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) at an appropriate level along with representatives from Finance Division, Chief (T&C), Chief (Economic Appraisal) and Chief (Environment) of Ministry of Planning, Development & Reform. The committee rationalised the scope and cost of the project from Rs 24.019884 billion to Rs 23.839667 billion including cost of Rs 4.942 billion for Peshawar Morr Interchange.

The project was then submitted for the approval from Ecnec without the FEC including the cost of Peshawar Morr interchange of Rs 4.942 billion with the following conditions: (i) the cost of the entire project Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro Bus Project would be equally shared between the Federal Government and the Government of the Punjab; (ii) to generate revenues for operation of the MBS and reduce the subsidy component, the MBS stations would be developed as commercial points; (iii) subsidy involved in post completion operation and maintenance of the MBS and its sharing formula would be jointly worked out by Metro Bus Authority/Government of the Punjab, CDA and Finance Division for approval of the competent authority; (iv) the CDA would expedite the approval of the EIA report already submitted to Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and proceed accordingly; (v) the CDA would ensure that the project does not involve violation of the CDA's Master Plan; (vi) the CDA would share the design of the MBS with Ministry of Railways for their views/ advice for making it consistent and compatible with proposed rail link between Islamabad and Muzaffarabad via Murree; and (vii) effective co-ordination and monitoring arrangement would be put in place.

The meeting observed that the process on environmental impact assessment (EIA) report has already been submitted to the competent authority for clearance and it would be expedited by the sponsors and a copy of approval/clearance of the EIA would be provided to Planning Commission. The CDA assured the meeting that there was no violation of CDA Master Plan due to the project.

The meeting further observed that the subsidy involved in post completion operation and maintenance of MBS and its sharing formula would be jointly worked out by Metro Bus Authority/Government of the Punjab, CDA and Finance Division. The issue of inclusion of enhanced scope of Peshawar Morr Interchange at a cost of Rs 4.942 billion was agitated by the representative of the Punjab Government. It was agreed that Rs 3.00 billion of enhanced cost of Peshawar Morr Interchange would be borne by Federal Government. The total cost of the project of Rs 23.839667 billion would be equally shared @ Rs 10.419833 billion each by the Federal and Punjab Governments excluding Rs 3 billion which would be borne by the Federal Government.
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