LAHORE - Punjab government is going to embark upon an ambitious Metro Train project with the cooperation of Chinese companies to meet not only the present needs of the commuters in Lahore but also cater to the accruing traveling burden by the year 2021.

After Metro Bus service, Metro Train project under the title of Orange Line Metro Train is the second mega project of the Shahbaz Sharif government for commuters. Metro Train is estimated to cost $1.6billion, (Five times more than the Metro Bus) and is the most expensive venture by any Provincial government.

An MoU has been signed by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, Xu-Shaoshi in China. According to the pact, Chinese companies would complete the project from top to bottom while the Punjab government would provide facilities including security to Chinese engineers, designers and others.

The train would run from Ali Town (Raiwind Road) to Dera Gujjran (GT Road) on the estimated track of 27.1KM of which 25.4 KM is overhead and 1.7KM underground. It will have 26 stations– 24 elevated and two underground. The completion period of the project is 27 months with beginning of the work by December.

The metro train is running in a number of big cities of the world and is effectively absorbing the growing load of the passengers. The Lahore Metro project has also been conceived in view of the fact that by 2021 the number of passengers in the city will rise up to 12million and of them, five million would need public transport to commute. Initially the Orange Line will carry 2.5lakh people in a day and that number would be enhanced to five lakh by the year 2025.

Surveys done by foreign companies have declared that the project is feasible. It was revealed through the survey that if no immediate steps are taken the passenger load would double in the year 2021 which will chock the city traffic flow. Adding to that environmental and ecosystem issues too will increase.

It is a fact that such like projects around the globe are contributing to the overall development of countries. Yet certain vital questions relating to its ownership, commerciality and political aspects strike the mind.  Although a team has been constituted to work out the nitty-gritties of the project but not much has been made public. Most of the PMLN parliamentarians did not know whether the huge amount of $1.6billion is a direct investment by the Chinese companies or a loan or a part of the much trumpeted $32billion investment by China. The Punjab government has much liking for private-public partnership.

The Punjab government will purchase land for the project and hand it over to the Chinese companies. As such payment of land and its acquisition will be responsibility of Punjab.  Another question is about the government’s role in managing the project and its share when it is operational, and whether the government will have any involvement in its revenue or if it would be taxable? A question also relates to the government role in the purchase of material for the construction of the project since steel would be main article.

A PML-N MPA of the government told the scribe that we already have an example of Turkish companies which are successfully working on energy, sold waste management and housing projects. As such, no need to worry about the Metro Train. When contacted, MNA of PML-N Muhammad Pervez Malik said the government would certainly have a role in the management of the project. In his view the project will be part of the huge investment China is going to do in Pakistan. He said the project will bring about a radical change in the area.

Parliamentary Secretary for Information Rana Muhammad Arshad said the project is beneficial to the people and economy of the country for which Punjab government will play a key role. He said Government has started work on the Punjab as survey is on to acquire the land.

The Opposition in Punjab also critical of the Project. PML-N MPAs wanted to speak to the Punjab Assembly in praise of the project but the Opposition protested.

The Opposition questions as to why all projects are been giving to Lahore when in other parts of the province, particularly South, people did not have even water and education and health facilities.

This is also political aspect of the project which the government would surely address to take people of the entire province on board.