LAHORE: The handing over of the Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) project’s entire electrical, mechanical and civil work to the Punjab Mass Transit Authority (PMTA) from the Chinese joint venture has begun, however the train’s commercial operations may take another three months due to technical, administrative and the ongoing pandemic issues.

On the other hand, a spokesman for the Chinese joint venture, CR-Norinco, claimed that the completion acceptance certificate of the electrical and mechanical works undertaken by them had been confirmed and signed by a representative of the PMTA on July 13.

Official warns govt will have to pay penalty if service doesn’t start in October

“With PMTA and Nespak-CEC’s strong support, the completion acceptance of E&M works undertaken by CR-Norinco for OLMT have been confirmed and signed by the owner’s representatives on July 13. The project is currently being handed over by full support from CR-Norinco under a unified arrangement with PMTA,” reads a press release. “Following ideal handover conditions, the project will smoothly proceed towards the public launch of the Orange Line train. The 27.1-kilometre-long line will be Lahore’s first metro and landmark strategic project as part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative.”

But the mass transit authority is surprised over the claims of the Chinese firm and said it was just the beginning of the handing over the works. “We are surprised why they (the company) have said this. There are many documents related to the completion of several electrical, mechanical and civil works that are yet to be signed by the PMTA and Nespak – the consultants. This process may take about 45 days and till then we cannot say we have taken over the project,” a senior official told Dawn on Friday. “After the takeover, we have to hand it over to a joint venture responsible for carrying out its operations and maintenance.”

The official further said that after various delays, the date for commercial operations of the project was fixed for June 11, but due to Covid-19, it could not materialise. The Chinese joint venture that won the operations and maintenance contract had even started training the drivers and other staff. But during training, eight per cent of the trainees tested Covid-19 positive, forcing the authorities to halt the activity, he explained. “Recently, they resumed the training due to decline in the virus spread,” he added.

He said that the government wanted to start commercial operations soon, but it hinged on permission from the health department for resumption of businesses. “Even if the government agrees to start operations for public in October, it will first seek permission from the health department. If the Covid-19 situation remains the same or worse in October, it may take more time to start operating,” the official clarified, warning that the government would have to pay a penalty if the project’s commercial operations did not begin in September or October.

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2020