The Orange Line Metro Train conducted its first trial run in Lahore yesterday. It was a much-anticipated project spearheaded by the Punjab Government. A single train within the 27-kilometer rail line has the capacity to carry 1,000 people, out of which 200 can be seated while 800 can commute while standing. Punjab Chief Minister, Shehbaz Sharif has reportedly called the project a ‘gift’ for the citizens and has vowed to bring similar facilities to Karachi and Peshawar as well.
دور عصر کے جدید تقاضوں کو پورا کرتے ہوئے وزیر اعلی پنجاب نے سفری سہولیات کے شعبہ میں انقلاب برپا کر دیا ۔۔۔۔ خادم پنجاب نےاورنج لائن میٹرو ٹرین ٹیسٹ رن کا افتتاح کیا اورسفر میں شریک ہوئے ، اللہ کے فضل و کرم سے ٹیسٹ رن کامیابی سے طے پایا۔۔۔قوم کو یہ تاریخی دن مبارک ہو ۔۔ pic.twitter.com/ebYWJnTFhh
— Govt Of The Punjab (@GovtOfPunjab) May 16, 2018
Today I am feeling excited & overjoyed because in a fight b/w elite & the common man, it is the common man who has finally WON. Orange Line is a gift for honorable citizens of my country. IA we’ll introduce such facilities in other parts of Pakistan as well esp. Karachi &Peshawar pic.twitter.com/lGcsNH5Ozm
— Shehbaz Sharif (@CMShehbaz) May 16, 2018
The main idea behind the project is to provide convenient public transport for the masses of commuters in Lahore. The aim is to both, reduce traffic as well as provide a quality alternative for those who have no access to either public or private transport.
#OrangeLineMetroTrain will usher in a new era of swift, safe and honorable commuting for hundreds of thousands of common citizens of Pakistan, thus bridging the gap between the #elite and the #underprivileged. #MetroTrainChalayGi #OLMT pic.twitter.com/gZKwbzh1Fe
— Metro Bus System (@MBSPakistan) May 16, 2018
Allah be praised!
Time has come for the people of Lahore to take revenge with their power of vote on those who obstructed the construction work & caused them inconvenience. Teach such elements a lesson for their anti-people policies. Unnecessary 22-month delay still hurts me! pic.twitter.com/u9KI4EtppA
— Shehbaz Sharif (@CMShehbaz) May 16, 2018
What is this delay Sharif is talking about in the Orange Line Metro Project?
This is the same Orange Line Metro that incurred the angry dissatisfaction of activists across Lahore, in 2014, when it surfaced that some damage to heritage sites was inevitable during the line’s construction. A stay order was placed on many sites of the project thereafter. In December 2017, Shehbaz Sharif managed to remove the 22 months long stay order, which was imposed on several sites along the project. Sharif blamed Imran Khan and his party, PTI, for delaying the project, which was initially supposed to be completed on December 25, 2017. He claimed that PTI had moved the Supreme Court against the project.
Some have lambasted the Punjab Govt., claiming the entire project to be a case of misplaced priorities.
@CMShehbaz misused his power and diverted funds from health and education sector for #OrangeLineMetroTrain , says @SaadRasooll
Watch Live: https://t.co/WzGiFMYqsz#DunyaPrograms @headlinesat5 pic.twitter.com/j36ILDa839
— Dunya News (@DunyaNews) May 16, 2018
Other’s are questioning the liability brought on by such a massive project.
Where is the Feasibility Report?
How much did it cost?
What is the Payback – is there even a payback period?
How negative is the Return on Investment?
How huge will be the subsidies?
Mr Psycho Sharif, will you answer?
— Naya Pakistan, InshaAllah (@Fabulous_IK) May 17, 2018
It must be noted here that the Orange Line Metro is considered to be a part of CPEC. However, even with Chinese technical expertise involved, the financing is being done by the Punjab Government. So, there is some level of public scrutiny over how the government has prioritized development. It is the age-old rhetoric of why aren’t the leaders concentrating on education instead of roads and railways. And, rightly so. It is the right of the citizens to know where their taxes are being spent.
That being said, not everything has to be made a blame game. Nor does everything have to be reduced to a political ‘side-taking’ mess. The Orange Train Metro line was embroiled with its fair share of political opportunism. And it is undeniable that the impact and burden of this monetarily hefty project will be felt by the future governments. However, it is also true that the project is serving a tangible purpose for a great many people. While projects like these cannot do away with elitism overnight, they are a service to numerous people from lower income brackets. Projects like these must go hand in hand with social change that concentrates on creating a pollution free environment. For now, let’s hope that what has already come to fruition is maintained well in the future and that it serves its purpose well. Perhaps then the sting of what else could have been would be felt a little less.