ADB approves $235m to upgrade N55, boost regional connectivity

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Islamabad

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $235 million loan to upgrade the Shikarpur–Rajanpur section of the National Highway 55 (N55).

The road up-gradation is crucial to regional connec-tivity and strengthen the government’s operation and maintenance of the national highway network.

The project will expand the 222-kilometer Shikar-pur–Rajanpur section of N55 from two lanes into a four-lane carriageway.

N55 is part of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Corridor 5 which links the ports of Karachi and Gwadar with national and international economic centres to the north.

This project will increase the capacity of a busy highway section that passes through populous eco-nomic centres in Sindh and Punjab provinces, said ADB Transport Specialist Rika Idei.

Idei said the project addresses key road safety, cli-mate resilience, and gender-specific needs to ensure users can travel safely, smoothly, and comfortably.

This will facilita te the regional movement of goods and people, and support Pakistan’s economic recov-ery from Covid-19.

The project will construct bus stops, emergency response centres, and traffic police facilities to en-sure road safety enforcement and efficient post-crash response.

Bus stops and emergency response centres will have gender-separated facilities and rest spaces for various users, including the elderly, women, children, and persons with disabilities.

The project will also help strengthen the capacity of the National Highway Authority (NHA) by support-ing a five-year training programme which was pre-pared with assistance from the United States Agency for International Development.

The training programme will cover road project operation, main-tenance, design, and gender concerns and will be implemented from 2021 to 2025.

The loan is the second tranche of a multi-tranche financing facility designed to provide technical and financial assistance to upgrade N55 and enhance the capacity of the NHA.

The first tranche of $180 mil-lion was approved in September 2017 and financed the improvement of three sections totalling 143 kilometres in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa prov-inces.

Pakistan is a member of the CAREC Programme, a partnership of 11 countries to promote economic growth and sustainable development through re-gional cooperation.

It is supported by development partners including ADB, which serves as the secre-tariat for the CAREC Programme. —TLTP

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