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GUJRAT: The Punjab government has planned to construct a new bridge on Chenab river at the Shahbazpur-Jalalpur Jattan road for linking Gujrat with Sialkot city and airport.

The bridge had been a longstanding demand of the people of Gujrat since the establishment of the Sialkot International Airport.

Following a demand by local legislators of the ruling party, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in principle approved the construction of two major bridges in Gujrat, including a flyover at the Shaheen Chowk along Gujrat-Sargodha road passing through the GT Road bypass. A bridge over the Chenab river was also approved, and the department concerned and the district government had been asked to work on the proposed cost of both bridges.

The National Engineering Services Pakistan (Pvt) Limited (Nespak) has been assigned consultancy services for both the projects. The company’s representatives and engineers led by General Manager Muhammad Daud on Sunday visited the proposed sites along with Gujrat District Coordination Officer (DCO) Liaquat Ali Chattha and PML-N lawmakers Haji Imran Zafar, Nawabzada Haider Mehdi, Moin Nawaz Warraich and others.

The DCO said following directions from the chief minister, the department concerned started had estimating cost of both these projects. He said with the construction of a flyover at Shaheen Chowk, traffic issues at the bypass would be resolved. The Shahbazpur Bridge would bring development in the area due to links of Gujrat district and Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s areas of Bhimbher with the Sialkot International Airport.

Earlier, the PML-Q government had launched the Shahbazpur Bridge project in 2006 as a joint venture of the Punjab and federal governments and the then president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf had laid its foundation stone.

The total cost of the bridge at that time had been estimated around Rs1.2 billion, with the Punjab government pledging to provide Rs500 million while the rest had to be paid by the federal government. However, the project could not be executed as the subsequent Punjab government of the PML-N soon after coming into power shelved the project and diverted the funds to projects outside the district.

Shahbazpur Bridge would reduce the distance between Gujrat and Sialkot airport to only 30 minutes that currently took around an hour and a half using the Wazirabad and Sambrial route.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2014