The FINANCIAL — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the United Kingdom have agreed to fund a key section of the M-4 motorway in Punjab province, which will cut travel times and support the Government of Pakistan’s broader goal of improved investment and trade flows along the country’s vital north-south corridor route.
ADB is providing a project loan of $178 million and administering a $92 million equivalent grant from the Government of the United Kingdom to build a four-lane section of the motorway linking Gojra to Shorkot. Once fully completed, the M-4 motorway—which connects Faisalabad with Multan and is part of the corridor—will, provide a faster, safer, more cost-effective north-south route to the currently overburdened national highway 5.
“Road transport dominates Pakistan’s transport system, but much of the national highway network was built before the 1950s and consists of poor-quality two-lane roads which struggle to cope with current high levels of traffic, including heavily-laden freight trucks,” said Zheng Wu, Transport Specialist in ADB’s Central and West Asia Department. “The project supports the government’s goals of decongesting highways and improving the north-south corridor to reduce the time and cost of moving people and goods, which is a major constraint to raising competitiveness, and attracting private sector investment needed to generate sustainable jobs for a fast growing population.”
The north-south corridor, covering 1,800 kilometers, connects the port city of Karachi in the south with Torkham on the northern border with Afghanistan, and passes through major production and population centers, including Lahore, Faisalabad and Islamabad. The economy of the area served by the corridor accounts for up to 85% of Pakistan’s gross domestic product, and the route is a key link in the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program’s network of cross-border corridor routes between land-locked Central Asian nations and Pakistan’s warm water ports on the Arabian Sea, according to ADB.
Along with building an over 60-kilometer stretch of motorway, the project will also provide training and other support to the National Highway Authority (NHA) to raise its capacity for road management, including maintenance, contracts and road safety. ADB has been the lead development agency for road development in Pakistan, and together with its development partners, has helped transform the NHA from a bureaucratic government department into a modern service-driven asset management organization.
The project will directly benefit local communities, transport operators, freight forwarders and traders of agricultural products, as well as helping to indirectly reduce poverty. The completion of another section of the motorway from Shorkot to Khanewal will increase the overall benefits and help complete the M-4 as an alternate route to existing congested roads in the Faisalabad and Khanewal-Multan-Muzaffargarh areas.
The project, which includes government counterpart support of $46 million, will run for 4 years with an expected completion date of November 2019.
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region. In 2014, ADB assistance totaled $22.9 billion, including cofinancing of $9.2 billion.