China - Pakistan Railway
The China – Pakistan Railway starts from China’s westernmost city of Kashgar in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and ends at Gwadar, a port city in southwest Pakistan. This railway will be built under the aegis of the China – Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that will connect China and Pakistan and span the length and breadth of Pakistan. It is expected that the China - Pakistan Railway will start construction in 2030 and open in 2040.
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The idea of building an international rail link between China and Pakistan was put forward as early as 2008. The original idea was to build a railway connecting Kashgar with Gwadar and a parallel oil pipeline. Together with the China – Kyrgyzstan - Uzbekistan Railway proposed by the Chinese government, it is included in the "Going West" strategy in the Eleventh Five-Year Plan. Once the China - Pakistan Railway is completed, Gwadar, located along the Arabian Sea, will eventually become a transit point for China to transport crude oil in the Middle East. However, due to economic and technical difficulties, construction has not been started.
Latest Progress of China – Pakistan Railway
The China – Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a project of regional connectivity, was proposed in 2013. Pakistan’s government has agreed to the construction of an international railway connecting Gwadar to Kashgar, for the benefit of both countries.
The CPEC project was officially announced in 2015. It emphasizes upgrades to Pakistan’s aging railway system, including rebuilding the 1726-kilometer-long Main Line 1 railway from Karachi to Peshawar by the end of 2020. Main Line 1 railway is the most important north-south rail line in Pakistan, and will extend northward through the China - Pakistan border to Chinese rail network. This project also plans to upgrade Main Line 2 railway from Kotri to Attock, and Main Line 3 railway between Bostan and Kotla Jam. Reconstruction and upgrade on these rail lines have already begun.
Pakistan's railway network will also be extended to eventually connect to Kashgar of southern Xinjiang Autonomous Region in China. It is planned that after completion, the China – Pakistan Railway will provide direct access for Chinese and East Asian goods to Pakistani seaports at Karachi and Gwadar.
Difficulties Need to be Conquered
The China – Pakistan Railway, which connects western China and Pakistan’s northeast port of Gwadar, is considered the world’s most difficult railway to be built. The length and investment of the China - Pakistan Railway exceeds that of the Tibet Railway. The total investment is estimated at 400 billion yuan. To the safety of the railway and protection of local environment, numerous bridges and tunnels will need to be built. Besides, adequate electricity and energy sources are required, which is one of the biggest challenges to build this railway.
Additionally, the geological conditions along the line is harsh and complex. This railway needs to climb the Pamir Mountains, many of Asia's major mountain ranges meet. Then it will need to pass through the Karakoram Mountains, the second highest mountain range in the world, after the Himalayas, with the elevation of more than 5,500 meters.
Why Build China – Pakistan Railway
The construction of the China - Pakistan Railway will make transportation, economy and trade between China and Pakistan more convenient. By then, oil from the central and eastern regions will be delivered directly to China through this railway. When completed, the China - Pakistan Railway will not only become a seaport in the Indian Ocean, but will also open a transport channel for oil and gas resources between the Caspian Sea, successfully bypassing the narrow Strait of Malacca and connecting directly with oil-producing countries from the Indian Ocean to enhance the energy security factor.
China has a long way to go from its southeastern port through the Strait of Malacca to the Indian Ocean. If it leaves the Indian Ocean from the port of Gwadar in Kistan, via Xinjiang, it will be closer, connecting directly with oil-exporting countries in West Asia and significantly shortening its journeys to Africa and Europe. If completed, it could be connected to the railways of Kistan and Iran.
The China – Pakistan Railway will also benefit the international trade between the two countries. China's ties with south Asian and west Asian countries can also be strengthened through the railway.