LAHORE - Authorities are giving final touches to a beautification campaign as the first Orange Line Metro Train is all set to begin test run in the provincial metropolis this week.

An official on Sunday told The Nation that the test run on the much-awaited transport project would be conducted on Monday (today) while the formal launching of the project may take another three to four months. He said the beautification drive alongside the route and around the substations was in full swing.

Workers, last week, were seen planting trees and flowers on the main crossings and especially-designed overhead bridges located alongside the train’s route. The construction work on roads beneath the bridges has also been completed.

Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar chaired a high level meeting to review the progress on the mass-transit project last week in Lahore. The chief minister was informed that the construction work on 13 substations (from Dera Gujran to Anarkali) had been completed and the train will become operational for its maiden run on test trial basis by high-voltage electricity on Monday.

The CM was also informed that that the work on 11 other substations would be done by November and after completion of work on these stations, the test trial for running of train by electricity on the complete track will be conducted.

Sardar Usman Buzdar directed the authorities to launch the project for the benefit of people as early as possible. He also announced that the train fare would be fixed keeping in mind the purchasing power of the ordinary people. It is expected that the train would be formally launched in March next year. PM Imran Khan is most likely to inaugurate project for which the original deadline was December 25, 2017.

The 27.1-km long route comprises of 26 substations including two underground stations with 27 train sets (5 cars/train set). The work on the depot established at Dera Gujran has also been completed and it would have operation control center, workshops with overhauling facility, training center, and parking facility.

At Ali Town station, a stabling yard has been established where washing, minor repair, and parking facilities would also be available.

In April, the government successfully held the first test run of Orange Line Metro Train. The test run was conducted from Dera Gujran to Ali Town at the speed of 10/km per hour to in order test the whole track and the efficiency of the vehicle.

The Punjab government had signed the project with the chairman of the Chinese National Development Reforms Commission for construction of the train in Lahore in May 2014.

Former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif had introduced the project in 2014. However, civil society’s concerns over the damage to historical sites and difficulties in generating enough energy to power the system stalled the project for years.

The track covers areas including Ali Town, Thokar Niaz Baig, Multan Road, Scheme Morr, Chouburji, MAO College, Mall Road, Lakshmi Chowk, Railway Station, Garhi Shahu Bridge, GT Road, UET, Pakistan Mint and Dera Gujran. This project would provide state of the art transport facility to ordinary people particularly those living in low-income and densely populated localities.

Initially, the country’s first metro train project will provide transport facility to more than 250,000 passengers per day and more than 30,000 passengers would be able to travel every hour. The construction work began on the project in October 2015 after China’s Exim Bank agreed to provide a soft loan of around $1.5 billion. Several Chinese trains have already been imported to run the track.

In April, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had expressed displeasure over the long delay in the completion of the much-needed transport project. The court also ordered all the three construction companies involved in the OLMT project to submit guarantees of Rs10 million each and warned that if the project wasn’t completed by May 20, the court would take possession of their guarantees.

The two-judge bench of the apex court headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed expressed displeasure over the delay in the project while hearing a case regarding the completion of the project. During the hearing, Justice Ahmed remarked that if contractors don’t work, they should be picked up and thrown away or put in jail. Also, the court had ordered that quality check mechanisms must be ensured for the project which was in the national interest.