LAHORE: The commercial operation (public launch) of the Lahore Orange Line Metro Train Project is not possible on June 11 as the Chinese companies-led joint venture has sought some more time keeping in view the delay in arrival of staff from China, suspension of flight operations and adoption of SOPs related to Covid-19.

However, the integrated test and commissioning for Orange Line, constructed by CR-NORINCO joint venture, passed the witness test by project owner’s representatives (Nespak & CEC) on May 6 (Wednesday).

This marked the satisfactory completion of related scope of work as per the EPC contract which included electrical and mechanical (E&M) installations, system commissioning, test & commissioning and test run. Moreover, the confirmation of installation quality as well as system and linkage functioning by the project owner laid a solid foundation for O&M handover of the project, which is of utmost importance for the project to smoothly proceed towards its public launch.

“The project is complete and is ready to open for public (commercial operation) since all required tests have been carried out by the Chinese staff. The trains’ test run for media and the public was also conducted six times,” a senior official supervising the project told Dawn on Friday.

“The commercial operation date (CoD) of the project is June 11. But the joint venture of three companies, including two Chinese firms, which has been awarded the operation and maintenance (O&M) of the project has requested us to extend this date since the entire international flight operations in China, Pakistan and the rest of the world are suspended due to coronavirus. Due to this many Chinese engineers and staff, who need to come from China to Pakistan, cannot travel. Moreover some need to move to China for various works related to the project and are also unable to travel.

They (if the flight operation resumes) will have to pass almost 15 days in quarantine whether in Pakistan or China,” the official, who requested anonymity, explained.

The International Tenders for the project had been floated on Jan 29, 2014 during the PML-N tenure. Later, a meeting of the then President of Pakistan with Chinese premier was held on Feb 19 in Beijing. During this meeting, the Chinese premier decided to fund the Orange Line project with the condition that Chinese enterprises would execute the project using their (Chinese) equipment. He also declared it a Chinese gift to Pakistan.

On June 24, China recommended CR-NORINCO Joint Venture to execute the project. And finally on Aug 4, CR-NORINCO emerged as lowest bidder with bid price of USD 2.139 billion. After getting a go-ahead, the LDA started procedure under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 in 2015. Work on the project started in October 2015. It was on Dec 21 that an agreement was reportedly signed between the federal government and Exim Bank of China for the provision of funds for the project.

Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2020