|This article's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information. (February 2012)|
The Khunjerab railway or Karakoram railway is a proposed rail link via Khunjerab Pass from Hunza-Nagar District in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan to the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, China. In June 2014, China has reportedly commissioned a “preliminary research study” to build an international rail link to Pakistan.
In 2007, consultants were engaged to investigate the construction of a railway through this pass to connect China with transport in Pakistani-administered northern areas of Kashmir. A feasibility study started in November 2009 for a line connecting Havelian 750 km (466 mi) away in Pakistan and Kashgar 350 km (217 mi) in China.
Pakistan awarded a Rs72 million (US$1.2 million) contract to an international consortium to carry out a feasibility study for establishing a rail link with China to boost trade relations between the two countries.
The study will cover a 750-kilometre section between Havellian and the 4,730-metre-high Khunjerab Pass over Mansehra district and the Karakoram Highway. Havellian is already linked with the rest of the rail network in Pakistan; the Chinese will lay some 350 km of track within their own territory from Kashgar terminus up to the Khunjerab Pass, linking Pakistan with China's rail network, largely following the route of the Karakoram Highway.
By expanding its stake in Pakistan's rail sector, China is poised to exploit the country's advantageous geographical position - strategically located at the confluence of South, Central and West Asia.
Beijing's involvement in several rail projects in Pakistan is motivated primarily by commercial considerations, but it also sees distinct advantages for its improved transportation and access to Central Asia and the Persian Gulf states. A reliable network of road and rail links can only ensure China's access to energy-rich central Asia, serving it both commercially and strategically.
In the first week of this month,[which?] Pakistan Railways and China's Dong Fang Electric Supply Corp signed an agreement for establishing a rail link between Havellian and Khunjerab. Ingenieurgemeinschaft Lasser-Feizlmayr (ILF), a consortium of consultant engineers from Austria, Germany and Pakistan, is to submit its report to the Ministry of Railways in nine months.[when?] It is most likely that the distance between Havellian and Khunjerab will involve the construction of tunnels. The ILF services encompass both the construction of new high-speed railway lines and the modernization of existing lines for standard-gauge and narrow-gauge railways in addition to tunnels.
China is actively involved in the development of Pakistan Railways and for the past five years it has been increasing its stake in the country's communication sector. Pakistan Railways is a state-owned company that provides an important mode of transportation in the furthest corners of the country. It has been a great integrating force and forms the lifeline of the country by catering to its needs for large-scale movement of people. The freight-passenger earnings comprise 50% of the railway's total revenue. Pakistan Railways carries 65 million passengers annually and operates 228 mail, express and passenger trains daily. It introduced new mail and express trains between major terminals from 2003 to 2005.
Pakistan Railways has recently entered several agreements with Chinese railway companies for its development. In 2001, Pakistan Railways signed a $91.89 million contract with China National Machinery Import and Export Corp for the manufacture of 175 new high-speed passenger coaches. The project was funded by Exim Bank China on a supplier credit basis. Forty completely built passenger coaches have been received and 105 will be assembled in Pakistan Railways' carriage factory by next December.
These coaches are being used on Pakistan Railways' mail and express trains from Rawalpindi-Lahore-Karachi, Lahore-Faisalabad and Rawalpindi-Quetta. The manufacturing kits for the remaining 30 coaches have also been received and manufacturing is in progress. With 12 already assembled, the project is scheduled to be completed by next month. The passenger coaches are of the latest design and are equipped with disc brakes. The technology transfer for these coaches has been obtained from China's Chang Chun Car Co.
Under an agreement signed with China in 2003, Pakistan Railways purchased 69 locomotives, of which 15 were delivered as completely built units and are in use by Pakistan Railways. The remaining 54 are to be built at Pakistan Railways' locomotive factory. The Chinese locomotives are 37% cheaper than the European locomotives.
Some in Pakistan have been criticizing the faulty locomotives purchased by Pakistan Railways from Dong Fang Electric Corp of China. It is surprising that last year, Pakistan Railways decided to purchase 45 more 2,000-3,000-horsepower locomotives from the same company. The company is willing to redesign the already-delivered 30 locomotives of the original order, such that the underframe is strengthened and the weight reduced to less than 140 tons. Last year, as a result of an open bidding, a Chinese company, Beijing Research and Design Institute, is committed to providing 300 rail cars to Pakistan Railways.
Under another agreement signed in 2004 with China National Machinery and Equipment Group, the Chinese company is to undertake the construction of Corridor 1 of a light-rail mass-transit system for Karachi that is intended to serve 4 million commuters. The project will cost about $568 million and take four and a half years to complete. The contract has been awarded on a build-operate-transfer basis and comprises five corridors.
Pakistan signed a series of agreements with China during the past three years to enhance the capability of its railway system. Under an agreement signed between Pakistan and China Railway, a Chinese company will provide 1,300 freight cars to Pakistan Railways, of which 420 will be manufactured in China and the remaining 880 will be produced at the Moghalpura railway workshops in Lahore.
Under another project, 450 passenger coaches will be rehabilitated at an estimated cost of Rs2.14 billion. The project also includes the conversion of 40 coaches into air-conditioned cars and the conversion of 10 power vans. Furthermore, there is a provision of 100 new high-speed bogies, 30 of which will be imported from China, while 70 will be manufactured locally on a transfer-of-technology basis. Under a separate agreement, 175 new passenger coaches are being purchased from China.
As part of a $100 million agreement signed between Pakistan and China in November 2001, China is to export 69 modern locomotive engines to Pakistan to modernize Pakistan's railway fleet. The first eight engines have been completed and are ready for shipment to Karachi. The new engines consume less fuel than older models and are cheaper to maintain. The main feature of this deal is that the first 15 engines will be manufactured in China and the remainder will be assembled in Pakistan, with spare parts and technology provided by China. Similarly, for a Rs7.2 billion railway project in Sindh province involving laying 78,000 tons of rails, China delivered 64,000 tons to Pakistan Railways.
|Route map of the Khunjerab Railway|
As a part of its development plan for its transport and communications network, Pakistan Railways has completed a feasibility study of the Chaman-Kandahar section for laying railway tracks between Pakistan and Turkmenistan through Afghanistan. The feasibility study for cost, engineering and design for the construction of a rail link from Gwadar to the existing rail network in Mastung district in Balochistan has also been finalized. The new link to Gwadar port will open up underdeveloped areas of Balochistan for development. The main aim of the venture is to connect the Central Asian republics with Pakistan Railways' network through Afghanistan.
China is going to be the beneficiary of Gwadar's most accessible international trade routes to the Central Asian republics and Xinjiang. By extending its East-West Railway from the Chinese border city of Kashi to Peshawar in Pakistan's northwest, Beijing can receive cargo to and from Gwadar along the shortest route, from Karachi to Peshawar. The rail network could also be used to supply oil from the Persian Gulf to Xinjiang. Pakistan's internal rail network can also provide China with rail access to Iran.
- The railway linking Kashi and Hotan in Xinjiang opened on December 30, 2010, for cargo transportation, and passenger transport commenced on June 28, 2011.