More than a year since it was opened, decoration work still continues on parts of the Lahore Ring Road near the airport, posing an inconvenience and a hazard to commuters.
The Ring Road’s so-called Package 6 was inaugurated last year when Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul visited Lahore. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif took a special interest in this part of the road, saying he wanted visitors to Lahore to have a pleasant ride into the city from the airport. Apart from a series of bridges, interchanges and underpasses, the design included special decoration work and horticulture arrangements.
But the decoration work on the walks of two bridges and an underpass is still to be finished. This has meant that one side of the underpass has been closed for several months, forcing traffic coming from both directions to use the same underpass. Only one lane is open on that side and the crossing can be particularly hazardous at night without street lighting.
For about two months, a part of the main road was closed while workers assembled a bridge structure there. The structure has now been shifted to the service road and the main road left clear, but a high rate of accidents was reported at this section, particularly during the night when the street lights were also switched off.
Muhammad Azeem, a commuter, said the road had been like this since it was inaugurated last year. “It’s very dangerous to cross the underpass at night, especially when the lights are out. I’ve narrowly escaped accidents on several occasions,” he said.
An official of the Project Management Unit for the Ring Road told The Express Tribune that he recognised that the slow pace of work had created problems for commuters, but they could not do anything about it because the contractor was close to the chief minister. “All we can do is wait,” he said.
Ahmad Mukhtar of Al Imam Enterprisers, the contractor, said the delay had nothing to do with his relationship with the chief minister and everything to do with certain design changes that had to be made in order to cut costs.
He said after the floods last summer, the government had suspended spending on development to divert funds to rescue and relief operations.
“They asked us to lower spending so we had to make some changes,” he said.
For example, the decoration work on the underpass walls was supposed to be on glass reinforced concrete panels, but they changed it to sandstone, he said. This required extra time to bring stone to the site from hilly areas and then cut them. “The panels were supposed to have been made in a factory,” he said.
Mukhtar said that 30 per cent of the decoration work was left. “The work is very intricate,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2011.