An aerial view of the Orange Line train passing near Chauburji during its test run. — White Star / Aun Jafri
An aerial view of the Orange Line train passing near Chauburji during its test run. — White Star / Aun Jafri

LAHORE: Test run of the Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) began on the entire 27-km route (Dera Gujran to Ali Town) after the PTI-led Punjab government inaugurated its trial operation on Tuesday.

The test run would continue at least for next three months before launch of its commercial operation (opening for the public at large).

“Orange Line is the first transport project of its kind being completed under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. It also symbolises Pak-China friendship and is a magnificent gift for Lahorites,” Punjab Minister for Transport Jahanzeb Khan Khichi said after he inaugurated commencement of the trains’ trial run at a ceremony by unveiling the plaque at Ali Town.

The OLMT is the first mega public transport project of its kind in Pakistan envisaged by the Shahbaz Sharif-led PML-N government in December 2013. The tenders for the project were floated on Jan 29, 2014. And after a meeting of the then president of Pakistan with the Chinese premier on Feb 19 in Beijing, China decided to fund the project through soft loan, declaring it a “gift to Pakistan.”

Commercial operation will start after three months

On June 24, China recommended CR-NORINCO Joint Venture for execution of the project’s components — electrical and mechanical. After getting a go-ahead, the LDA started civil work assigned by the company in October 2015.

The project activities also remained halted for over a year due to long litigation at Lahore High Court and Supreme Court. In May 2018, the last month of the PML-N five-year tenure, Shahbaz Sharif had got the test run of the train conducted just ahead of the 2018 general election. However, the PTI government in Punjab allegedly expressed doubts about various contracts of the project and also sought fresh tendering of the operation and maintenance contract that was [almost] finalised by Shahbaz Sharif’s government. Finally the Buzdar-led dispensation directed the Punjab Mass Transit Authority to start the tendering process afresh, causing delay in the commercial operation.

Minister Khichi, while responding to the Monday’s ‘mock inauguration’ of the Orange Line staged by the PML-N workers, said it was not a project of any political personality or party but of the provincial government that aims to provide state-of-the-art transport facilities to the people of Lahore.

The project also holds distinction of being first electric transport of Pakistan. It is the first electric vehicle for Pakistan public sector besides having distinction of first computer-based control train. The service’s speed, break and other functions will be operated automatically by the computer. As the process of trains’ brakes, alignment, signal and other technical tests would now be conducted for next three months, the service would be fully operational for the public after this phase.

Earlier, Mr Khichi along with Information & Culture Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, Energy Minister Dr Akhtar Malik, Food Minister Samiullah Chaudhry, Adviser to CM Dr Salman Shah, MPAs, Secretary (Transport) Asadur Rehman Gillani, Managing Director (Punjab Mass Transit Authority) Sibtain Fazal Haleem, Executive Deputy General Manager of Chinese (NORINCO Company) Wang Yunlin, journalists and notables travelled in the train that successful completed its test run from Dera Gujran to Ali Town.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2019