The Government of Pakistan’s plan to construct the six-lane Kharian-Rawalpindi Motorway could prove to be a game changer in resolving the long-standing issue of massive traffic jams on GT Road that have become a permanent nuisance for hundreds of thousands of commuters travelling on the route.
According to estimates, the motorway which is to be constructed on built operate and transfer (BOT) basis under public private partnership in the next 24 months, would substantially decrease the traffic burden off GT Road by 40 to 50 percent.
The 117-kilometre long Kharian-Rawalpindi Motorway would have six lanes, eight inter-changes, two service areas and 26 flyovers. Moreover, it would also have 23 subways, two tunnels (twin tubes), 42 cattle creeps, two rest areas. A cattle creep is a small, field-to-field access for farm animals, usually to allow passage beneath an obstacle such as a road, canal, or railway embankment. The project is supposed to be completed by 2024.
For this purpose, the Ministry of Communication and the National Highway Authority (NHA) have already floated bids for hiring services of a consultant firm for development of the motorway plan.
This project basically is the extension of Lahore-Sialkot and Sialkot-Kharian motorway projects. The motorway project of Lahore-Sialkot has already been completed while Sialkot-Kharian Project’s contract has also been awarded. Both these projects are public private partnership ventures.
The government believes that the Kharian-Rawalpindi Motorway, on its completion, would complete the link between Lahore and Rawalpindi and will divert much of the traffic from GT Road and other important routes.
The NHA has envisaged granting concession to the prospective bidder to design, finance, construct, operate, maintain and transfer assets, the Kharian-Rawalpindi Motorway at the end of the concession period.
According to the brief which has been prepared for the potential investors of the project, the concessionaire will be given an exclusive right to collect toll from vehicles on this project. The concessionaire will also be allowed to generate revenue from the service areas and commercial use of the Right of Way (ROW).
The ROW is the legal right, established by usage or grant, to pass along a specific route through grounds or property belonging to another party. To improve viability of the project, the government of Pakistan/NHA shall provide Capital Viability Gap Funding (VGF) up to a maximum amount of Rs 7.5 billion during the construction period. Operational VGF will be provided as subsidy, to be equally spread over the first seven operational years of the project.
The government will also provide guarantees to the concessionaire to secure its VGF payment obligations. The concessionaire shall be responsible to arrange remaining funding for the project including 30 percent in equity and 70 percent as commercial loan.
The government expects that the project will create 5,162 jobs directly or indirectly. It would also boost economic activities and overall uplift of adjoining districts.
It has also been envisioned that it would pave way for uninterrupted traffic flow which would result in reduction in vehicle operating costs. Moreover, the project would also improve traffic safety and it would reduce traffic incidents. The project is also expected to save travel time between Lahore and Rawalpindi/Islamabad.
The Economic International Rate (IRR) over this project is believed to be 20.48 percent and equity IRR is stated to be 15.50 percent.
It may be mentioned that the total existing national highway network including motorways is 11,971kms in the country. The highways comprise a total length of 10,300 kilometres while there are 1,671 kilometres of motorways in the country. The total road length in Pakistan is about 264,000kms and the NHA is custodian of 10,638kms.
Then there are several under construction projects including Havelian-Thakot (CPEC), Islamabad-DI Khan (CPEC), Lahore-Sialkot, Lahore Eastern Bypass, Yakmach-Kharan, Kohat-Jand-Pindi Gheb, Peshawar Northern Bypass and Sambrial-Kharain which would comprise a total length of 510 kilometres in terms of motorways length and 338kms of highways’ length.