Elusive ribbon-cutting: Is Azadi Chowk project really complete?

Ads, statement suggest project completed on June 29, but it is yet to be opened for traffic.

Rameez Khan July 07, 2014

LAHORE: Despite its apparent completion, the Azadi Chowk Interchange is not being opened for traffic, which is causing inconvenience to around 200,000 motorists daily, The Express Tribune has learnt.

The Lahore Development Authority (LDA) claimed to have completed the construction of Azadi Chowk Signal Free Junction and the New Circular Road projects in 165 days at a cost of Rs5.35 billion.

According to an official statement issued earlier by the authorities, the project was completed on June 29. The Traffic Engineering and Transport Planning Agency (TEPA) officials also say that the project was completed in the last week of June.

However, the project has still not been inaugurated reportedly because of the busy schedule of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. The CM left for China on Sunday. Since June 29, the Punjab government has been advertising in the print and electronic media, claiming to have completed the project in record time.

TEPA officials have been making arrangements for the inauguration ceremony since June 29. TEPA started work on the Azadi Chowk Signal Free Junction on January 15. The project, with an overall length of 2.5 kilometre, was completed at a cost of Rs 4.5 billion. On average, over 200,000 vehicles will daily pass through the junction, saving Rs 9 million per annum in fuel costs. The New Circular Road was also a part of the project, which was completed at a cost of Rs1.35 billion. Total length of the road is 1.6 kilometre.

According to TEPA officials, the circular road was completed on June 20, whereas the signal-free corridor was completed on June 23.

The officials, requesting anonymity, said the circular road and Azadi Chowk could have been inaugurated in the last week of June. “Inauguration should not have been delayed due to the minor work that remains. Work on the Kalma Chowk Flyover, which was inaugurated on August 14 2011, continued even after October,” the officials said.

They said the government had opened other construction projects as soon as they were completed. TEPA Chief Engineer Saifur Rehman said they had completed the project according to the timeline given to them and the project was ready for inauguration.

LDA Public Relations Officer Sohail Janjua said people might have to face a little inconvenience now, but the project would prove its worth once it was opened. He said the project would be inaugurated by the CM very soon. However, he did not give any definite date.

Sources in the Punjab government told The Express Tribune that the CM had invited dignitaries from Turkey to attend the inauguration ceremony, which was likely to take place on July 10.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2014.


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