LAHORE: The Chinese companies building the Lahore Metro Train’s Orange Line track have once again raised alarm over the litigation against construction activities near heritage sites. With the mass transit project aligned for completion ahead of the next general elections, construction at at least seven places has not even started.
In August last year, the Lahore High Court barred the Punjab government from initiating construction within 200 feet of 11 historic sites of Lahore. The provincial authorities challenged the decision in the apex court, which after a few hearings has not heard the case since January.
The Punjab government had envisioned completing the Orange Line track by December 25, 2017. But the current pace suggests the deadline will be missed at least by a year.
A member of the committee overseeing the project told The Express Tribune the government had wanted to complete the metro train project before the 2018 general elections. However, it has failed miserably in getting the project cleared from courts.
“There are still about seven places where construction activity has not been initiated owing to litigation,” the Orange Line Steering Committee member said.
Representatives of the Chinese contractors of the project – CR-NORINCO and CEC – have also expressed concerns over the stay orders impeding their construction activity near heritage sites. The government has no answers for the Chinese, who have been continuously asking the provincial government about court clearance.
The top court has not given time for a hearing in the past couple of months. And the government, the committee member said, was not in a position to push the courts to speed up hearings because of the Panamagate scandal.
Not only the Chinese, local contractors are also uncertain about the project’s fate.
The OLMT package-1 builder said though construction activity could not be started near heritage sites, he was hopeful if the government got a clean chit from court, the project would be completed by early-2018.
He, however, indicated the construction of the underground central station near Lakshmi Chowk would be critical for project completion as it was one of the most complex and time-consuming jobs.
In a recent steering committee meeting, officials said about 24% civil works on the Orange Line Package-1 from Dera Gujjran to Chauburji were pending. If the sites under litigation are included, the remaining work comes to around 28%.
About 40% work is pending on Package-II from Chauburji to Ali Town. The new package-II contractor is still in the process of importing shuttering for pre-casting of civil structures and building pre-casting yard.
The 27-kilometre Orange Line is being funded through Rs165 billion in soft loans through China’s Exim Bank. Project documents indicate around Rs100 billion would be directly transferred to the Chinese contractors, CR-NORINCO, for procurement of the rolling stock while the remaining amount would be transferred to Pakistan for construction of track and provision of allied infrastructure.
The Orange Line is a part of Lahore’s Metro Train network and once completed, will connect Raiwind, Multan Road, McLeod Road, Lahore Junction Railway Station and the Grand Trunk Road. The project is the first line of the Lahore Metro, which is the country’s first mass-transit train system.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2017.