After shelving the monorail-based mass transit system, the Punjab government intends to re-open the Lahore Rapid Mass Transit System (LRMTS).
The policy shift came after Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, was assured by the Chinese government and investors during his recent visit to China that they would invest in the LRMTS project, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Back in 2005, the Transport Department had carried out a feasibility study to develop a mass transit network in Lahore.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) provided Rs1 billion in July 2007 for a study for the project.
The construction was expected to start by June 2008. If all went well the civil works would be completed by the end of 2010. The 97-kilometre rail network was to be bounded in the east by Gajjumata and to the west by Shahdara station.
The Transport Department commissioned an international company, SYSTRA, to conduct the feasibility report and outline an engineering design.
The company was paid a large sum of money for this job. According to an FIR registered, officials embezzled a total of Rs400 million during this period. The project, however, was later shelved as the Punjab government said they first needed to scrutinise the corruption and only then could they analyse its reconstruction.
In the 2010-2011 financial budget, the Punjab government allocated Rs5.2 billion for the project.
However, following the historic flood and re-appropriation in its wake the project was shelved again.
In June 2010, a delegation of M/s SCOMI international, Malaysia Project Support Service Asia (PSSA) called on the chief minister and gave a presentation on the monorail-based Mass Transit System along Ferozepur Road.
The CM asked the delegation to get back to him with a detailed proposal, supported by a financial plan.
In January this year, SCOMI representatives made another presentation for the entire 97-kilometre project. It proposed an agreement on design-construct-operate-and-transfer (DCOT) basis.
They informed the CM that the project would cost $1.15 billion.
M/s COPICARD, a USA-based consortium offered to finance the project’s infrastructure. The rolling stock would be provided by SCOMI. The Project Support Service Asia would also select an operator to run the system. The project could be launched within three months, and completed in 36 months.
For its part, the consortium demanded three assurances from the Punjab government: the timely provision of land, sovereign guarantee to secure the project finance and the number of riders as projected in the feasibility study.
While addressing a press conference at the 7-Club Road, the chief minister disclosed that an agreement had been signed between the Punjab government and the Chinese government for the LRMTS project to be completed at a cost of $1.7 billion. He said that work on the mega project would begin this year and would be completed in a cost-effective manner.
Now, the Punjab government has once again changed its plans, owing to lack of efficient planning and its, failure to win the confidence of foreign investors, an official said.
The shift in policy was made without estimating its cost and repercussions on the government’s working and image. The government should hold all concerned officials responsible for this failure and take action against them, the official added.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2011.