LAHORE: The Punjab government has stepped up pace of work on Orange Line Metro Train Project with the determination to complete the $1.6 billion project before the next elections, which are due to be held in August next year.

However, nothing can be said with certainty due to its completion as no work is going on eleven heritage sites comes en route of project, as construction work was stayed by the Lahore High Court.

On Wednesday, chairman of the steering committee for Lahore Orange Line Metro Train, Khawaja Ahmad Hasaan after chairing weekly progress review meeting about the project informed that 72 per cent of the civil work on Lahore Orange Line Metro Train Project has so far been completed at cost of Rs 36 billion, including construction of a bridge for passing trains on Lahore Ring Road near Quaid-e-Azam interchange, close to the under-construction depot.

He told that laying of two kilo meters long track for parking coaches of Orange Line Metro Train has been completed at depot near Dera  Gujjran as manufacturing of trains was in progress in China.

Seven sets of trains, each comprising of five cars, will be ready by the mid of next month for shipment to Pakistan. Five sets of train have already been prepared  or Lahore Orange Line Metro Train, which will operate at a commercial speed of 35 kilo meters per hours for the benefit of more than 2,45,000 passengers daily.

The meeting was informed that progress on civil work on package-I from Dera Gujjaran, G.T.Road to Chouburji was 85.7 per cent, on package-II from Chowburji to Ali Town was 53.0 per cent, on Depot near Dera Gujran was 77.0 per cent while on Stabling Yard near Ali Town it was 73.5 per cent.

Khuwaja Ahmad Hassan also directed in the last progress review committee that two elevated stations, situated at Islam Park and Salamat Pura, may be completed in every respect by finishing all civil, electrical and mechanical works, by the 31st of  July so that these structures could be used as ‘models’ for completing other stations of the project. Till date both stations are not finished yet.

Critics of Punjab government say completion of Orange Line Metro Project before next general elections is a real challenge for Punjab government led by PML-N. While government has pace up the construction work at all the 11 elevated stations of OLMT to finalize the project in time which stirred in controversy since its inception.

The 27 km project stretches from Ali Town to Dera Gujjran.

Labourers working at Chowk Yatim Khana elevated station of Orange Line Metro Train were of the view that if the construction work would continue with this pace the project will complete minimum in five months. “If there will any other scenarios the project will not likely to complete before eight to 10 months.”

“We are present here. We work here. We know better situation. We fulfill our task daily and submit reports to our supervisors. The pace of work has gained momentum but there is 50 percent work yet to be completed on these elevated stations,” two of labourers told The Nation who wished not to be named.

A survey conducted by The Nation in this regard. The construction work at all the 11 elevated stations is continued and at their 50 percent completion stage. However, no construction work is going on near heritage sites.

Environment activist Maryam Hussain said that since the inception of OLMT the civil society has been raising serious questions on the design and it implication of public. “Punjab Government always claims that they are completing the project with pace but the real situation is on the ground. Punjab government is bound to follow the verdict of Lahore High Court and no construction work should be done near heritage sties,” she said. 

“If they are going to contest the next elections on Orange Line Metro Train then this would not be good for 20 million population of Lahore that deserves modern transportation system but government is all trying to save their nose by completion of such expensive transportation system,” Maryam said.

She thinks government can sill revamp the whole design or at least considers the ‘public review’ to cater the civil society concerns on OLMT. 

Other than the development work, a serious challenge for the Punjab Government is to satisfy the UNESOC reactive monitoring mission on the safety condition of International Heritage Site Shalimar Gardens.

Civil society accused Punjab government that it misled Unesco at the 41st World Heritage Committee meeting held in krakow (Poland) on Orange Line Metro Project effects on World Heritage Site Shalimar Gardens.

The controversy stirred when civil society representatives showed a letter of World Heritage Centre Director Mechtild Rossler which she wrote to human rights and environment activists in Pakistan  stated that there is no such think that we (UNESCO) endorsed the state party.