ADB commits $235m to fund Pakistan highway upgrade

A highway with mountains in the background

Shikarpur–Rajanpur section of National Highway 55 (N55) will expand to four lanes over 222km, alongside USAID training deployment.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $235m loan to further upgrade a national highway in Pakistan that is crucial to international trade.

National Highway 55 (N55) will now be expanded from two to four lanes for the full length of its 222km Shikarpur–Rajanpur section. N55 is part a vital part of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Corridor 5 which links the ports of Karachi and Gwardar in southern Pakistan with national and international economic hubs to the north.

The ADB loan is the second tranche of a multi-tranche financing facility for the upgrade of N55. The first tranche saw $180m approved in September 2017 to improve three sections totalling 143km in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

ADB transport specialist, Rika Idei, said: “This project will increase the capacity of a busy highway section that passes through populous economic centers in Sindh and Punjab provinces. The project addresses key road safety, climate resilience, and gender-specific needs to ensure users can travel safely, smoothly, and comfortably. This will facilitate the regional movement of goods and people, and support Pakistan’s economic recovery from COVID-19.”

Pakistan is a member of the CAREC Programme, a partnership of 11 countries to promote economic growth and sustainable development through regional cooperation. It is supported by development partners including the ADB, which serves as the secretariat for the CAREC Programme.

The project will construct bus stops and police and emergency response facilities to ensure road safety enforcement and enhance the response to traffic incidents. Bus stops and emergency response locations will also have gender-separated facilities and rest spaces for various users, including the elderly, women, children, and people with disabilities.

The funding will also support a five-year training programme for the National Highway Authority, which has been prepared with assistance from the United States Agency for International Development. That programme will cover road project operation, maintenance, design, and gender concerns and will run until 2025.