LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Sunday unveiled the first train of the Orange Line Metro Train Project (OLMTP), regarded as vital by the ruling PML-N to retain its vote bank in the province .
The Punjab government plans to bring it into operation in December, although 25 per cent of work is still incomplete due to litigation over the train route’s proximity to some historical places.
The Supreme Court has yet to announce its verdict.
The ceremony to celebrate the arrival of the first batch of five carriages and an engine was held at the Dera Gujjran depot.
The train corridor comprises an elevated portion of 25.4km and an underground portion of 1.72km (cut and cover sections). There will be 26 stations — 24 elevated and two underground — depots and stabling yards.
Shahbaz says PML-N’s opponents were conspiring to get the project stopped
The project consists of 27 trains — each consisting of five carriages — an energy-saving air-conditioning system and systems configured to handle unstable voltage. Each train has a capacity to carry 1,000 passengers.
The government says the metro train will run on electricity and transport up to 250,000 passengers daily and its capacity will be raised to 500,000 in stages.
According to the government, the estimated cost of the project is Rs165 billion, of which a
major chunk of Rs150bn has been provided by China under a soft-loan agreement outside the financial framework of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said the project would provide a modern, safe, swift and affordable transport to commuters.
He said the PML-N’s political opponents were levelling “false allegations against us” and conspiring to stop the project by filing petitions in the court.
He recalled that “these very people had called the metro bus plan a failed project”, but could not prove any corruption.
Referring to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s announcement about a metro bus project for Peshawar, he said it had done nothing to start the project.
“Those political leaders who speak about ‘tabdeeli’ (change) did nothing to provide any relief to the people,” Shahbaz Sharif said.
He said his government would accept the SC verdict in the Orange Line case.
Referring to apprehensions that the project would harm historic buildings. he said: “We have completed 75 per cent of the work and are waiting for the court’s decision to complete the remaining part.”
Earlier, Mass transit Authority Managing Director Sibtain Fazal Haleem explained different aspects of the project. The chief of the steering committee, Khawja Ahmed Hassan, and Chinese officials were present on the occasion.
Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2017