After a three-day disruption caused by protests in the city, Lahore Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) resumed operation on Monday with a celebration of the completion of its first year and crossing the milestone of serving 20 million passengers.
To commemorate the anniversary of the OLMT operations, an event was held at the project’s head office, which also marked the achievement of surpassing the milestone of 20 million passengers boarding the trains to benefit from the reduced travelling time between Dera Gujran and Ali Town of 105 minutes.
Chinese acting Consul General Peng Zhengwu and Punjab Masstransit Authority Managing Director Mirza Naseer Inayat were the chief guests. On the occasion, the OLMT management hailed government support and the project members services.
It attributed the growth in ridership despite the frequent imposition of lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic to “persistent efforts to provide safety, security, cleanliness, reliability and comfort for the commuters”.
Read OLMT on tracks
The hi-tech trains, operating daily from 6am to 10pm with a gap of up to five minutes between Ali Town and Dera Gujran through 26 stations had brought convenience to the residents and led momentum in urban modernisation, according to a statement issued on the occasion.
The project was jointly constructed by China Railway Group and China North Industries, while its operations and maintenance are managed by Norinco International as the leading company along with Guangzhou Metro Group and Daewoo Pakistan Express Bus Service.
In addition to creating more than 2,000 local jobs through the joint venture, the project has also helped ease traffic flow and reduce air pollution.
It is estimated that the passengers of the province’s biggest transport project paid Rs800 million in fare during the year. The trains completed 84,993 trips on the tracks, travelling a total of 11.23 million kilometres.
According to Punjab Mass Transit Authority sources, the train service remained operational for more than 300 days during the period.
Protesters disrupted the service several times and damaged its stations.
The function held at Dera Gujran Depot on the completion of a year of the OLMT operations was also attended by representatives of Chinese contractors and officials of departments concerned.
The project earlier suffered several setbacks, including the Covid-19 pandemic. Both Chinese and Pakistani contractors were excited about initiating commercial operation of the service when the novel coronavirus erupted in Wuhan, China, and entangled the entire world. The pandemic spread like wildfire and forced governments to impose travel restrictions across the globe.
Entry and movement of Chinese engineers and workers remained restricted for around three months, which delayed the entire launch process of the OLMT project.
The Punjab government and the transport department had been at loggerheads over the fare for a long time. The transport department wanted to fix the fare at Rs50 but the Punjab cabinet, taking into consideration political reasons, has fixed it as Rs40. However, a high subsidy is being paid with the fare.
The prospective commuters were expecting different fares, ranging from Rs20 to Rs40, according to the distance travelled.
The security and ticketing system of OLMT has been outsourced. The Chinese experts will stay in Pakistan until the start of the train operation and keep reviewing it and will also train the local staff.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2021.