ISLAMABAD: The Western Corridor mega project of 292 km will help usher in an era of economic prosperity in some of the country’s most backward regions, officials said Sunday.
Chairman of the China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Special Assistant Prime Minister for Information Lt-Gen (right) Asim Saleem Bajwa last week tweeted completion of 69 percent of work on a significant part of the Corridor project valued at 212 billion Rs.
The four-lane highway from Hakla near Islamabad to Dera Ismail Khan will reduce travel time between Dera Ismail Khan and Islamabad from five hours to two and a half hours.
The first component after virgin alignment is planned from Hakla near Islamabad from the M-2 highway to Yarik on the border of KP and Balochistan. The second part of the corridor is the 540 km Yarik-Zhob-Quetta National Highway which will be upgraded to a toll road standard, thereby reducing the distance from Islamabad to Quetta to only 830 km and the eight hour travel time on this new standard four-lane highway.
The estimated cost to increase Yarik to Quetta through the Zhob section is Rs142b. The Hakla-Yarik portion that has been reported 69% completed by the CPEC chairman will pass Pindigheb, Tarap in Attock, Duadkhel and Isakhel in Mianwali, and Kundal, Abulkhail and Yarik in the Dera Ismail Khan district.
The Hakla-Yarik section will have 12 interchanges in Dhok Sayedan, Thati Kalran (Fateh Jang), Kharpa (Pindigheb), Tarap (Jandh), Daud Khel, Kot Balian, Isakhel (Mianwali), Kundal, Abul Khail and Yarik in Dera Ismail Khan The project has four service areas at a distance of 60 km, and three large bridges over the Indus, Swan and Khuram rivers.
National Highway Authority (NIH) monitoring documents available with The News show that projects for rapid implementation are divided into five packages with each spanning about 60 km. Contracts are allocated to various parties.
Package One is from Yarik to Rehmani Khel measuring 55 km and costs Rs13b. The contract has been awarded to the National Logistics Cell (NLC), which has completed 85% of the work, as reported in the NHA document. The package starts in September 2016, and the planned completion date is August 2018. This package is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Package Two is from Rehmani Khel to Kot Balian which stretches for more than 72 km, and will cost Rs 28b. So far 75pc work on this key package has been completed. Work on this package begins in July 2017, and is expected to be completed in April 2021.
This package is then subdivided into four sub packages and has been built by different contracting companies – SKB, Khalid Rauf & Co and SMADB-Sardar and Sharaf Balouch Company.
Package Three is from Kot Balian in Mianwali to Tarap in Attock. It is 52 km in length, will cost Rs21b and 75% of the work in this section has been carried out so far. This component has two large bridges on the Indus and Goose rivers. The settlement date is the end of 2020. The Border Work Organization is a contractor.
Package Four runs from Tarap to Pindigheb, is 51 km in length and will cost Rs21.3b. Sixty-one percent of work has been achieved so far. Progress is relatively slow. Expected to be completed by the end of 2020.
This is a joint venture between Limak and ZKB (Zahir Khan Brothers) contractors. The Lima Package is from Pindigheb to Hakla on M-2 in Islamabad. This component measures 63 km and will cost around Rs17b. It is being built by the same joint venture and is the slowest with only 47% progress. Expected to be completed by the end of 2020.
The cumulative cost of the five packages according to the NHA document is Rs110b. A total of Rs12b has been spent on land acquisition for this sophisticated toll road. In a background discussion, NHA officials and the Planning Commission cited a low financial allocation by the government as the main reason for the slow work and delays in completion. In the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) for 2019-2020 only Rs11.5b has been allocated and only Rs2.5b has been released so far. To date, a number of Rs80b has been spent on major inter-provincial projects, they said and hoped that the western corridor would be completed quickly after General Asim Bajwa took over as chairman of the CPEC.
Coincidentally, the two areas that will be the main beneficiaries of the mega project are Prime Minister Imran Khan’s electoral district in Mianwalli and Jamiat Ulemae Islam-Fazl chairman Maulana Fazlur Rehman in Dera Ismail Khan. Officials say the western corridor is fully funded by the Pakistani government’s development allocation in the PSDP.