LAHORE: The Lahore Orange Line project may face further delays as the Punjab government mulls putting a crucial tender up for bidding once again.
The move, if undertaken, is expected to set the long-overdue metro train project back by another five months, making it extremely difficult to meet the Supreme Court’s November 2019 operationalisation deadline.
Talking to The Express Tribune, official sources privy to the development said Punjab authorities are under pressure by some parties to float the operation and maintenance (O&M) contract up for bidding again even though it should have been awarded to the successful participant of the bidding process held earlier this year.
They said a meeting of the board of the Punjab Mass Transit Authority (PMTA) to finalise the project has already been convened.
“A new round of bidding will delay the project by at least five months making it impossible to fulfill the Punjab government’s promise of running this train by August 2019,” said an official associated with the project. According to sources, the delay will also increase the Orange Line’s estimated cost of Rs250 billion by at least Rs21 billion.
The Express Tribune tried contacting the Punjab government spokesperson for comment but could not get in touch. Meanwhile, PMTA Managing Director Sibtain Fazal Halim said his contract was up due to which he could not speak on the issue.
PMTA advertised the O&M tender in newspapers on January 19 this year. Under the contract, the successful bidder would have to meet all operational requirements for the train, which include providing electricity, signals and communications facilities and a CCTV system, and carrying out train and track repairs.
Two parties participated in bidding, held on March 20, but one of them was ruled out on technical grounds. Public procurement rules dictate that the remaining bidder should have been declared successful and awarded the contract, but sources said the authorities are reluctant to do so and want to float another tender based on some ‘new suggestions’.
If started on time, PMTA consultants estimate the Orange Line would provide a Rs39 billion benefit annually for 30 years. According to them, the number of riders who use the train service may grow from an estimated 245,000 in 2020 to 180 million in 2025.