At a meeting reviewing the pace of work on Wednesday, the project steering committee chairman Khawaja Ahjmad Hassan said, “The train would operate at 35 kilometers (km) per hour to facilitate more than 245,000 passengers.”
Khawaja Ahjmad Hassan said, on the project, more than 72 per cent of the work, includes construction of an
overhead bridge on Ring Road Lahore near the Quaid-i-Azam interchange, had been completed at cost of Rs36 billion.
The participants learned progress on civil work on package-I from Dera Gujjaran, GT Road, to Chouburji was 85.7%, package-II from Choburji to Ali Town was 53%, Depot near Dera Gujran 77% and on Stabling Yard near Ali Town 73.5%.
Up to five km line, of 13.4km, of package-I has been laid while the grey structure of the 11 elevated stations along package-I and five stations along package-II of the project have been handed over to a company for electrical and mechanical works. The grey structure of another five stations will be handed over to a Chinese contractor by the end of August while the remaining three stations will be handed over to it by Aug 14.
Despite the completion of 72pc of the civil work, project’s fate still hangs in the balance as the Supreme Court has yet to announce its judgment regarding the stay order by the Lahore High Court over the construction of the project in 200-foot radius of heritage sites, including Shalamar Gardens and the GPO.
Both the Punjab government and civil society have different stances over the concerns of Unesco’s world heritage committee on the project. Recently, the Punjab government blamed civil society activists for feeding wrong information to the World Heritage Centre (Secretariat) which led the Centre to draft decision of dropping the Lahore Fort and Shalamar Gardens from the World Heritage List.
“The draft decisions put up by the World Heritage Centre (WHC) regarding the suspension of work on the project, affecting a change in alignment in front of Shalamar Gardens and placing it on the list of World Heritage in Danger were rejected by the committee. The committee requested the state party of Pakistan to urgently complete and share with it the Visual Impact Study as decided by the WHC in its 40th session and invite the Reactive Monitoring Mission immediately after the decision of the Supreme Court to examine the project and discuss it with the relevant authorities,” it said in a recent handout.
On the other hand, members of the civil society quoted a letter of July 10 by Mechtild Rossler (director of the WHC). The letter states that the 41st session decided to grant one more year to the State Party (of Pakistan) in complying with the requests made by the 40th session prior to any decision to inscribe the Fort and Shalamar Gardens of Lahore, World Heritage Property, on the list of world heritage in danger. “Please note that the State Party was unable to invite the mission requested by the 40th session due to the pending case in the Supreme Court and due to the fact that the requested study is still to be finalised,” the letter added.