Orange line metro train- a luxury or necessity

In Pakistan, it’s a political fashion to criticise every project and policy decision of government by the opposition parties. Criticism is necessary for the healthy growth of a sensible society but we have developed a culture of criticism for the sake of criticism, not for improvement.

The Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) government in Punjab has always been under the radar of opponents for their preferential and speedy work on roads, bridges and construction projects in main stream cities, particularly in Lahore. In their previous government, the timely completion for development projects in Lahore and the metro bus project to connect Shahdara with Gajumata area was the star attraction for the voters. Indeed, these tactics worked and they got more seats in the elections of 2013.

After assuming the charge again in 2013, CM Shehbaz Sharif set the music with the announcement of orange line metro train project. The train would cover the rushed areas of Raiwind, Railway Station, Multan Road and GT Road. Moving on the pillars, two way roads would carry simultaneously two trains and estimated 250,000 passengers are going to use it to reach their destinations and work places. 36 stations are under construction along the line to facilitate the customers of maximum areas.

Approximate cost of the project is Rs 162 billion in which federal government’s contribution is 65 billion, while the remaining would be financed by Chinese banks under soft loan schemes in context of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The loan will be paid by Punjab government through easy installments in 20 years.

Opposition parties, especially Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), have tightened its belts and in all programs and at all forums, they always target this project, calling it a luxury initiative that has nothing to do with the common man.

Now there are two basic questions.

  1. Will it affect the life of common man?
  2. Are they making it on the cost of environment?

Let’s take the second question first; after the protest from environmentalist organisations and UNESCO, the high court had ordered complete halt of the construction in 200-meter area of heritage sites along line. The remaining work carried on and the government had to convince international agencies. Now, the situation is the same again as LHC has ordered halt of the construction again. People give the example for European countries and how they moved projects from the heritage sites and maintained the beauty of historical assets. Let me ask a question from such analysts; European counties had completed their projects of underground trains and motorways in 60s when the population was much lower and they got the opportunity to compensate their heritage sites. In these days, if you have to build new metro line in busy areas of France or London, this would be impossible to not touch the 200-meter area of natural heritage. Plus our country is not Europe. Here, around heritage sites, roads and population are spread in an uncontrolled manner; we don’t even know the exact limit of Shalimar garden due to illegal occupations. To solve the traffic issue, we are left out with no other option but to make metro trains and bridges. What’s the benefit in sitting in a park outside any doomed structure of Mughal era along the road when the traffic is stuck outside for hours? The irritating horn noise and smoke coming from cars and bikes is good for nothing.  However, the government had realised this during the planning phase and metro line has been curved as much as possible near the Shalimar garden.

Now, whether it would affect the lives of common man and city at large or not?

Yes, it will. Millions of workers from the areas earn their bread by working in industries in Raiwind or other areas of the city. There is no authentic transport system by the government and they have to rely either on private transport or on their own bike or cycle. After the completion of train, a middle-class earner would be left with two options – hundred rupees spending on bike petrol or to travel in easy and reliable manner on train on subsidised fair. Definitely, he’ll choose metro train and eventually load of thousands of bikes and private vehicles would be lowered from roads.

Every few days, protestors block the roads and common people have to face trouble in reaching offices, schools and health centres. Most importantly, overcharging on rushed routes by rickshaw and private mini buses is nothing less than looting. In this kind of environment, this type of signal and traffic free system was necessary.

Opposition parties are just doing point-scoring. They should present some alternate solution in the assembly or on media for controlling rising number of vehicles and private transport. Government is at least presenting a solution, but they are unable to digest it either.

No one is neglecting the need of urgent investment on health and school sector but this problem requires equal importance. Lahore city is being populated by migrants from all over the country and population would touch the figure of 15 million in coming years so this was the need of the hour. Otherwise may be you would have outclass hospitals and colleges in the city, but it’ll take days to reach there.

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