Beijing Underpass is actually a bridge between relations of Lahore and Beijing, according to Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: Pakistan’s longest underpass has been opened to ease traffic flow and facilitate the commuters of Lahore city in the heart of Punjab province.

The underpass, named after China’s capital city of Beijing, was inaugurated by Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday on Lahore’s Canal Road. China’s Consulate General, Long Ding Bin, also attended the ceremony.

“The Beijing Underpass is a testament to [the] friendship between Pakistan and China,” Sharif said at the inauguration ceremony.

The 1.3-kilometre underpass was built in record time — 125 days — at a cost of about Rs3.5 billion (Dh121 million). The height of the new underpass is 5.1 metres, which should allow for a number of vehicles to pass through.

At least 175,000 vehicles are projected to benefit from the underpass that will provide signal-free passage from Thokar Niaz Baig to Harbanspura, saving time and money.

The underpass can “handle 250,000 vehicles every day, greatly reducing traffic congestion on the Canal Road and its peripheries”, said Sharif.

“I congratulate the people of Lahore on the wonderful and timely completion of this project,” he added. He said the underpass was a masterpiece of architecture and would improve the flow of traffic. Passages for railway vehicles have also been built over the underpass, he added.

With this project, the Punjab government is keen to improve infrastructure at a cost of billions of rupees across the province and spread a network of roads, underpasses and flyovers, Sharif said.

Last month, the Punjab government was criticised by environmentalists and civil society for cutting trees for development projects that caused the worst smog the city has ever witnessed.

Noting the backlash and concern, the government has announced the planting of about 41,000 new plants, 30,000 trees and shrubs in the adjoining areas of the Beijing underpass.

Addressing media after the inauguration, Sharif said he appreciated the role of Lahore Development Authority (LDA) in completing the project in record time. He also expressed gratitude to the Chinese government for undertaking the country’s biggest project, China — Pakistan Economic Corridor, and for allocating funds for several affiliated projects, adding that the Beijing Underpass epitomises Pakistan-China friendship.

“The Beijing Underpass is actually a bridge between relations of Lahore and Beijing,” he said. “Pakistan and China cherish a perpetual friendship and we are grateful to China’s leadership and people for giving us the striking gift of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China has invested more than Rs60 billion under CPEC and this economic plan will bring prosperity throughout the region,” he said.

After the success of Metro Bus Service, which benefits millions of people every day, the chief minister also announced Speedo Buses in Lodhran and Bahawalpur next week. “Ensuring rapid and modern transportation services to the people is our primary priority, for which resources have been allocated,” he added.

He said that the Speedo Bus Service was being launched for public convenience and the service was already serving people in Lahore and Multan.