MANILA, Philippines – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) authorised a $235 million loan for Pakistan on Thursday to improve the National Highway, which is vital for regional connectivity.

The financing, according to the ADB, is critical for the government’s operation and upkeep of its National Highway network.

According to the statement, the project would convert the 222-kilometer Shikarpur–Rajanpur portion of National Highway 55 (N55) from two lanes to four lanes.

N55 is part of the Central Asia Regional Business Cooperation (CAREC) Corridor 5, which connects the southern Pakistani ports of Karachi and Gwadar with national and international economic centres in the north.

According to ADB Transport Specialist Rika Idei, “This project would improve the capacity of a major highway segment that runs through populated economic centres in Sindh and Punjab provinces.”

“To guarantee users can travel securely, smoothly, and comfortably, the project addresses important road safety, climate resilience, and gender-specific concerns. This would help Pakistan’s economic recovery from COVID-19 by facilitating regional movement of products and people.”

According to an ADB statement, the project would include bus stops, emergency response centres, and traffic police facilities to guarantee road safety enforcement and quick post-crash response.

Gender-separated facilities and rest areas will be available at bus stops and emergency response centres for a variety of users, including the elderly, women, children, and people with disabilities, according to the statement.

“By supporting a five-year training programme created with cooperation from the United States Agency for International Development, the initiative will also help enhance the capacity of the National Highway Authority (NHA),” it added.

The ADB stated that the training programme would be executed from 2021 to 2025 and will include road project operation, maintenance, design, and gender considerations.

The loan is the second instalment of a multi-tranche financing instrument aimed at providing technical and financial support for the renovation of N55 and the expansion of the NHA’s capacity.

The first tranche of $180 million was authorised in September 2017 and funded the rehabilitation of three sections in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa totaling 143 kilometres.

Pakistan is a participant of the CAREC Program, a group of 11 nations working together to promote economic growth and development in the area.

It is backed by development partners, notably the Asian Development Bank, which acts as the CAREC Program’s secretariat, according to the release.