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LAHORE: A public-private partnership steering committee of the Punjab government approved on Tuesday the construction of Ring Road’s Southern Loop-III, directing the authorities concerned to get it executed within a year.

The work on 8km-long SL-III, which starts from Adda Plot (Raiwind Road) and ends at Maraka (Multan Road) via Bahria Town, was stalled for the last couple of years due to litigation over land acquisition between the government and a known housing scheme. However, the Lahore Ring Road Authority (LRRA), executing agency of the project, succeeded in retrieving the land after demolishing 73 houses on Oct 9 last year.

“The project will stimulate private investment besides reducing traffic congestion in the city,” Punjab Finance Minister Hashim Jawan Bakht said while presiding over the steering committee meeting.

Project to be completed in one year

According to an official source, the delay in the project had not only increased its cost from Rs8.4 billion to Rs9.9 billion, but also forced the government to again begin the bidding process to shortlist the firm interested in executing this under the PPP mode. “We initiated the bidding process for this already approved project in March 2017 and selected a joint venture of two private companies. We even issued them a letter of intent. But the litigation over the acquisition of land where 73 houses were constructed caused a delay,” the official explained, requesting anonymity.

He said the delay and the subsequent cost escalation compelled the authorities to invite bids again following expiry of an earlier approval for the award of the project to a joint venture. The government is likely to financially support the project by providing a maximum of Rs3.4bn as viability gap financing.

“And whichever firm bids for acquiring the minimum financing from the government and spend maximum from its own investment and recover the same through toll collection later will be awarded the project,” he maintained.

While speaking to the members of the steering committee, Planning and Development (P&D) Chairman Habibur Rahman Gilani said, “The SL-III will not only link Raiwind Road with Multan Road, but also serve as a bypass for traffic coming from Gujranwala on GT Road and heading towards Multan.”

The meeting was also attended by P&D Board Member Agha Waqar Javed, MPAs Mian Tariq Abdullah and Sajid Ahmed, Prof Dr Abid Aman Burki and senior government officials.

The southern loops I and II of the ring road had been opened to traffic on Dec 22, 2017. The work on the SL-3 had been stalled since July 2016 after the private housing organisation and some residents approached the court and got a stay order.

“In October, the court didn’t extend the stay order. So the LRRA discussed the matter with the provincial government that allowed us to retrieve the land with immediate effect and start construction of the SL-3. And on Oct 9, we razed houses and retrieved the land,” an official explained.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2019