ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will have its first metro train by the end of July this year as the Supreme Court has directed the Punjab government to release funds to construction companies and make sure the project meets its deadline i.e. July 31, 2019.
In a recent hearing by the apex court, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had given a go-ahead to Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) which was the flagship project of sacked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government.
While talking to Gulf News, a senior leader of the PML-N, Dr Tariq Fazl Chaudhry said the project was initiated by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, younger brother of Nawaz Sharif, to facilitate millions of people of Lahore and other cities who come to the provincial capital.
Once completed, it would ease pressure on Lahore’s roads which is struggling to cope with heavy and unmanageable traffic. Even the Chief Justice realised the significance of the OLMT project and directed the Punjab government to execute it on time, he said.
If it meets the timeline by the middle of this year, it will be the first metro train in the country, he said.
The Supreme Court’s order has come as a pleasant surprise not only for the PML-N, but also for the people at large as already a lot of time and money has been spent on this project that was initiated in 2016 and later work on it came to a halt due to a stay order by the Lahore High Court.
Later, it was feared the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government would not let the project see the light of the day as the party was most vocal and critical of the project costing billions of rupees.
Even Justice Nisar had recently criticised it saying the former prime minister and his team spent more on train and bus projects than health and education.
However, after the Supreme Court’s order of Wednesday the Punjab government agreed to release funds for the project saying they had no other option than to follow the court’s orders.
According to senior lawyer and counsel for the construction company, Shahid Hamid, 97 per cent civil works had been completed and the timeline had been given to start the Orange Line train to facilitate people in the area.
In the last hearing the apex court had directed the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) to release Rs1 billion (Dh26.261 million) to the construction companies which would further get Rs600 million (Dh15.75 million) and Rs400 million respectively, to complete the remaining work of the automated rapid transit system, he said.
He had stated the Chinese expert would do testing of the train and then give a ‘go ahead’ for trains to ply on the track.
According to Hamid, 156 cities of the world had the similar transport system and OLMT of Lahore would be the cheapest transport facility for the public in the country.
Shahbaz Sharif had believed and convinced his party that the completion of the project before general elections of 2018 would give their party a thumping victory against the arch rivals namely, the PTI and the PPP.
However owing to a stay order by the Lahore High Court that lasted for almost a year, the project could not see light of the day before the general elections of 2018.
Now after completion, initially, the train will facilitate 250,000 million people daily, whereas by 2025, it is expected to facilitate 500,000 people every day.
Under the project, 27 trains with five bogies each, will travel across the track in 45 minutes, a journey which previously took 2.5 hours.