ATHER ALI KHAN   -   Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has inaugurated the first test run of Lahore's much-awaited Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT). So far, 90 per cent construction work and over 70per cent of the electrical and mechanical work on the project has been completed. At inaugural ceremony at Laxmi Chowk, the CM Punjab said work on the project would be completed in three months. Describing the OLMT as a gift for citizens, he vowed to introduce such facilities in other parts of the country, including Karachi and Peshawar. “The OLMT is not just a development project. Rather, it is the manifestation of service to the common man by the democratic government. Teachers, students, common citizens, laborers, and people from all walks of life will benefit from Orange Line Metro Train.

“The OLMT project will transform people’s lives. The project will become the basis of an interaction between different classes of society by creating a sense of equality and ownership in social terms,” he asserted. Initially, the project will facilitate 250,000 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. The OLMT route begins at Ali Town and ends at the Dera Gujran/Ring Road Interchange. The stops are: Ali Town - Raiwind Road – Thokar Niaz Baig - Multan Road - Chauburji - Lake Road - Ustadullah Bakhsh Road - GPO Chowk - Macleod Road - Nicholson Road – Boharwala Chowk - Sultanpura - GT Road – Dera Gujran/Ring Road Interchange.

Total length of orange line metro track is 27.12 kilometers. Out of it, 25.4 kilometers track is elevated while 1.72 kilometers track has been made underground to protect the historical places. Orange line metro train has 26 stations; 24 stations are made at the height of 12 meters whereas two stations are constructed underground. This train will complete 27 kilometers distance from Ali Town to Dera Gujran in just 45 minutes. The doors of the electric train are fully automatic and doors are also installed at the platform to ensure double safety of the passengers. Installation of electric accelerators is in full swing to help the needy to reach the platform easily. At the start of this project, tendering was done in spite of government-to-government agreement and Rs69 billion were saved by Punjab government through post-bidding whereas around Rs6 billion were also saved in local tendering in collaboration with the Chinese government.

All the bogies of the train have been imported from China. Each bogie is 20 metres long. Although there are 60 seats per bogie, each can accommodate up to 200 people. Separate seats have been allocated for women, the elderly, disabled and special persons. Orange Line Metro Train has once again proved the Punjab Speed. If PML-N comes into power, Shahbaz Sharif would start similar projects in other cities of Punjab and also in other provinces. His vision, dedication and capability to start mega projects and complete them in record times are the traits that are acknowledged by the global leaders. On September 16, 2017, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while welcoming Shahbaz Sharif in Istanbul, commended his leadership qualities and said: “Under your leadership, the journey of development and prosperity of Punjab is commendable and the efforts of Pakistan government for the provision of energy and eradication of terrorism are worthwhile.”

During a meeting on May 16, 2017, Minister of Communist Party of China (CPC) Wang Yajun said that Punjab had attained major development goals in his tenure which was surprising as well as impressive. Tajik Ambassador Jononov Sher Ali Saidamirovich said in a statement that it is one of the greatest achievements by the CM to overcome the electricity crisis in the country. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in October last year had inaugurated the first set of bogies that arrived from China for Lahore’s Orange-Line Metro project.

Speaking during a ceremony marked to celebrate it, CM Shahbaz Sharif said: “The project upon its completion will provide modern, safe, swift and affordable transport facilities to the commuters whereby 250000 commuters will travel via Orange Line train daily.” He added that a distance of 27 kilometres from Darogawala to Thokar Niaz Baig will be covered in just 45 minutes.

Due to unavailability of a mass transit network, people have had no option but to go in private vehicles or get aboard decades-old and uncomfortable public transport resulting in air pollution and traffic jams. Because of their insufficient number, travelling through these buses is hazardous, unsafe and fatal at times. Passing through the busy commercial and densely populated areas of the provincial metropolis, the track of Lahore Orange Line Metro Train provides the shortest link between the eastern, central and southern parts of Lahore. It will connect far flung localities to the employment as well as education centres of the city and situated along the route of UET. The project will also decrease number of vehicles on roads resulting in significant reduction in traffic congestion and air pollution besides significant saving in fuel cost and travel time. In this backdrop, Orange Line Train can be described as a revolutionary project after metro bus system in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan.