LAHORE: The Lahore Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) is likely to face more delays as the caretaker government has stopped the payments for all ongoing projects.

Earlier, the contractors working on various development projects across Punjab, including the metro train, were advised to wait till Election Day (July 25). However, it is now being indicated that the fate of all development projects will be decided by the upcoming government.

Speaking to The Express Tribune on Tuesday, a civil contractor, working on the metro train project, highlighted that all contractors were facing a serious financial crunch as the government had not made any payments for the past couple of months. He pointed out that bills worth billions of rupees were pending with different government departments. “The government has even stopped the payment of cheques that have already been issued.

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Contractors owe billions of rupees to their subcontractors and vendors. “The interim government has withheld payments for contractors and this has caused the contractors to default with subcontractors, who have been forced to stop wages for labourers.”

He said some labourers held a protest in front of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Central Secretariat over the nonpayment of their wages. Labourers, who fixed tiles at the OLMT Station 7, highlighted that civil contractors of the OLMT project have refused to pay their bills.

A labourer said the bills have been passed, but still they were awaiting payments for the past six months. “Our bills are just a few hundred thousand rupees, but we are being denied payment by the main contractor,” he added.

Labourers demanded that ex-Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif and former OLMT Steering Committee chairman Khawaja Ahmad Hassaan intervene and get their bills cleared otherwise it would be impossible for them to continue construction work.  A few labourers also tried to approach PML-N senior leader Khawaja Asif by stopping his vehicle, but he managed to get through the mob.

A sub-contractor

said Eidul Azha was around the corner and labourers were expecting their payments before the holidays. “The situation will turn ugly for both contractors and the government if they fail to release payments before Eid holidays,” he warned.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, OLMT Package-1 contractor Shahid Saleem claimed labourers, who registered their protest on Tuesday, do not belong to his company. They belonged to the contract labour of a subcontract and his company has directed the subcontractor to settle their bills on priority.

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Responding to a question, Saleem indicated that the metro train project was a fixed-price contract in which escalation cost was not covered. Contractors working on different sections of the project were facing heavy losses as more than 22 months had been lost in litigation and stay orders.

“We booked the project at fix rates as we were expecting that it would be completed in 10-12 months. However, long delays have multiplied our overheads and the cost of two major raw materials, steel and concrete,” he said.

He, however, refused to indicate any deadline for completion of the project which has already been completed by over 80%. Earlier, the outgoing provincial government was trying to complete the project before the elections, but it later fixed September as the new deadline. However, after the completion of the government’s term, no official was ready to give a deadline for the completion of the project.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2018.