Five years after the ground-breaking of the project performed on October 25, 2015, Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar inaugurated the Lahore Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) on Sunday along with Chinese Consul General Long Ding Bin and Transport Minister Jahanzeb Khan Khichi.
Besides the main inauguration event at the OLMT Depot Dera Gujjran, an inaugural ceremony was also held in Beijing, which was attended by representatives of the National Development Reforms Commission, CR-Norinco and senior Chinese officials, to witness the opening of the first international project completed under the China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The main ceremony was broadcast live through video link.
Addressing the inaugural ceremony, Buzdar thanked China on the behalf of the people of Pakistan and government of Punjab. He highlighted that the ties between both countries were six decades old and had strengthened with the passage of time despite notable changes on the world landscape. “Undoubtedly, Pakistan-China friendship is deeper than the sea, sweeter than honey and stronger than steel,” he added.
He underlined that the success of the CPEC would start a new era of development and prosperity and further strengthen ties between both countries. Under the CPEC, the OLMT project had been inaugurated for providing international standard transport facilities to the citizens, he maintained and added that the project would not only ensure stabilisation in urban development but also become a factor in green GDP.
The chief minister said the Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government had set a new political tradition by successfully completing the projects of the previous governments. It did not let any project become a victim of political bias. Projects like Wazirabad Cardiology Institute and new building of the Punjab Assembly were an example of political maturity, he added.
By rising above political hatred, Buzdar said, the PTI government was also working on the completion of the neglected projects of previous governments worth Rs1,115 billion.
In order to operate the metro train project successfully, he said, transparency had been ensured in the tendering of the operation and maintenance contract besides saving the nation’s billions of rupees. Punjab government, despite limited resources and tight economic conditions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, was also giving subsidy of billions of rupees annually to ply the metro train, he said.
“On this historic occasion, I would also like to pay tribute to the Pak Army and law enforcement agencies’ support and cooperation for the success of the CPEC. A number of CPEC projects are being successfully completed due to sacrifices and hard work of Pak Army and other law enforcement agencies day and night.”
He invited Chinese investors and business organisations to come forward to reap benefits of vast investment opportunities in Punjab’s transport, livestock, agriculture, housing and other sectors. The PTI government was ready to welcome its friends from China, he added.
Chinese Consul General Long Ding Bin said the Punjab government had provided full support for the completion of the OLMT project and its commercial operation. He congratulated the Punjab government and people of Pakistan on completion of the country’s first rail mass transit project.
He said the project was a new milestone in the friendship between Pakistan and China. This is the first state-of-the-art rail project in Pakistan, which has been successfully launched. It has given a new dimension to Pak-China friendship as this project of the CPEC is a best example of partnership between Pakistan and China. The provincial transport minister also congratulated Lahorites on the inauguration of the OLMT. The train is environment-friendly, which will solve transportation problems as well and help in controlling smog. Relations between Pakistan and China have been further strengthened under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Khichi said and added that subsidy of billions was required to ply the train but the government would make every possible effort to reduce the subsidy.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2020.