ISLAMABAD: A delegation led by the director-general of China’s National Railway Administration (NRA) called on the federal railways’ minister Sheikh Rasheed on Wednesday, media reported. Sheikh Rasheed and the Chinese delegation held discussions over the progress of ML-1 project for 1,872 kilometres long rail network. During the meeting, Rasheed said Prime Minister Imran Khan is taking personal interest for early completion of the Main Line-1 project as it is the heart of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that would be constructed with the estimated cost of $9.2 billion. The project will further enhance the friendly ties between Pakistan and China, he added. He said that the distance between Karachi to Rawalpindi will be shrunk to 10 hours and the project will significantly help to increase the overall production of the country after its completion after the next five years. The rail network will also link China, Central Asia and Iran, he said. Earlier on Tuesday, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Khusro Bakhtiar had revealed that significant progress has been made on the ML-1 project of Pakistan Railways and it has been decided to speed up work on it to launch groundbreaking in next six months. Addressing a news conference in Islamabad on Tuesday, he said Pakistani and Chinese sides have agreed to take forward the cooperation in various sectors under China Pakistan Economic Corridor. “JCC meeting of today remained very productive and many decisions have been taken to increase industrial cooperation between both the countries,” he added. He said the discussion was also held in-depth by both sides to enhance the steel production capacity of Pakistan. The Minister said 300 MW power plant has been inaugurated in Gwadar and it is part of the development of the coastal city. He said the development of Gwadar and establishing a free trade zone in the city is among the foremost priorities of the government. Pakistan was looking into possibilities of producing diesel from coal to bring down oil import bill, achieve self-sufficiency in this sector and encourage consumption of locally produced fuel. “We have a lot of interest to develop diesel from Thar coal and want Chinese assistance in that regard,” a senior official privy to petroleum sector developments told APP. He said China had two such mega plants which were successfully running and Pakistan wanted its help in turning Thar coal into diesel. According to a media report, the Shenhua Ningxia Coal Industry Group, a subsidiary of China’s biggest coal producer, the Shenhua Group, had already successfully installed the project to convert coal into oil in the northwestern Chinese region of Ningxia, the biggest plant of its kind in the world. The coal-to-liquid (CTL) project, having annual production capacity of 4 million tons of oil, was built by the Shenhua Ningxia Coal Industry Group. Pakistan’s monthly diesel requirement stands at average 600,000 tones according to which annual need stands at 7.2 million tons and the project to make Thar coal liquid (diesel) would also help reduce the import bill of diesel. Thar coalfield in Sindh province is bestowed with 185 billion tons of lignite coal, which can fuel power generation of over 100,000 megawatts for more than two centuries. In 1992, GSP discovered coal deposits worth 175-185 billion tons of lignite in Thar.Pakistan is exploring possibilities to utilise coal as Diesel fuel through liquefaction. This way government will be able to mark a major cut on imports -which result in the depletion of foreign exchange reserves by reducing the oil imports and gaining self-sufficiency via consuming locally produced fuel.