by Liu Tian, Jamil Bhatti
LAHORE, Pakistan, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- After a five-year construction, Pakistan's first ever metro train service started its commercial operation on Sunday in Lahore, the second largest city in Pakistan with a population of over 11 million.
As an early-harvest project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Orange Line will further strengthen bilateral traditional friendship and usher in new opportunities for locals heading to a better life, said Sadar Usman Buzdar, chief minister of Pakistan's eastern Punjab province where Lahore is the provincial capital, during the inauguration ceremony.
CHINESE STANDARD PROJECT
The Orange Line links Dera Gujran and Ali Town area along a 27-km route, passing almost all major areas of the populated city. The metro train, with 26 stations including 24 elevated stops and two underground stations, gives a splendid overlook of one of the world cultural heritages in Pakistan, the Shalamar Gardens, to passengers on their way.
A total of 27 sets of energy-saving electric trains, each comprising five fully air-conditioned wagons, with an operating speed of 80 km per hour, will provide a comfortable, secure and economical traveling facility to 250,000 passengers daily after commercial operation.
According to Wang Xiaobing, vice president of Norinco International, an operator of the metro train service, the Orange Line adopts Chinese standard, technology, equipment. It is for the first time that the whole chain of China's metro train industry, including designing, manufacturing, construction, operation and maintenance, was exported a country.
"I should say that the Orange Line starts an era of metro train in Pakistan and enables the country to have the most advanced metro train transit system in South Asia," Wang told Xinhua on Saturday.
Sitting in a carriage of the metro train, 43-year-old electrical engineer Rehan Fazal told Xinhua that it was his first experience in the state-of-the-art public transportation by Chinese and Pakistani engineers. "So, I'm really grateful for this marvelous project because the people in Pakistan have never experienced in the past such a good project especially for transportations section for general public."
"This is amazing. I'm so amazed. This is like the first time I'm seeing something like this in Pakistan, and I wish there are more kind of trends like this in Pakistan. I'm so happy right now. And I'm really thankful to China," Fazal's 13-year-old daughter Hiba said excitedly.
LIFESTYLE CHANGING PROJECT
Being blocked on the roads in Lahore is a part of daily life for the Lahoris. From trailers, rickshaws to heavy trucks, almost all kinds of vehicles can be found in one street in the city and motorbike riders are shuttling back and forth in between the cars.
The travel time from Dera Gujran to Ali Town by bus, taxi, or rickshaw will take usually two to three hours because of traffic congestion. Additionally, old engine cars driving at an extremely low pace definitely results in air pollution, said Rana Sanaullah Khan, a lawmaker of Pakistan's National Assembly.
Lahore's environment is becoming worst every day due to the reason and the air condition also forced the Pakistan Cricket Board to decide to shift some cricket matches to Karachi for the possibility of smog in the coming month. People are also facing health issues due to air pollution, said the lawmaker.
However, the metro train would cover from the first station to the last one in just 45 minutes and its capacity of 250,000 passengers per day, which is expected to rise in the coming years, would cut the number of trips of other transports leading to a decrease in the number of cars. The train would not only save commuters' time which they usually spend traveling in pathetic transports amid traffic jams, but also would be a great support in cutting down the smog, the lawmaker said.
Urban rail transit is wildly considered as the most efficient and environment-friendly transportation system in modern big cities. The electricity-driven Orange Line will change lifestyle and will help the government address the smog issue while serving the 11 million Lahoris, according to Chief Minister Buzdar.
"Actually, for my office, I would use my own car. But for other option let suppose I have to come to this market. So I will definitely avail this opportunity from the nearest station coming here because there are very good markets as well on the route. So one can easily on board this train and go wherever he wants," engineer Fazal said.
PROJECT LEADS TO DEVELOPMENT
For Buzdar, the chief minister of Punjab, the Orange Line means more than a modern transit project. He said the project will facilitate the urbanization of the historical city and play a driving role of the city's development, creating employment and boosting green GDP.
The Orange Line created over 7,000 jobs for locals during its construction and currently employs around 1,000 Pakistanis and more later for its operation and maintenance in a consortium comprising two Chinese companies Norinco International and Guangzhou Metro Group and a Pakistani partner of Daewoo Pakistan Express Bus Service.
Mohammad Nauman, a graduator from Pakistan's leading University of Engineering and Technology Lahore, is now working as a station master at the Dera Gujran station of the Orange Line after trained by his Chinese colleagues from the Guangzhou Metro.
"Orange Line is not like that they have constructed a mega project in Pakistan and they are operating it. Our Chinese brothers not only provided us all the facilities and also all the knowledge related to the project so that in the future if we have another project related to the metro rail transit, Pakistanis can handle it with full knowhow," said Nauman who majored in transportation engineering.
Vice President of Norinco International Wang said currently the 1,000 Pakistanis in the operating consortium are in different posts from cleaners to dispatchers, drivers and high level managers, and around 200 Chinese staffs are working with the Pakistanis as their trainers.
"In the near future, the consortium will only have around a dozen of Chinese in different management level, and the rest posts will be all Pakistanis," he said. "The Orange Line is historic as it starts a new industry in Pakistan so that we need time to let the Pakistanis be familiar with it."
Wang said that according to experiences in China, the metro train service will help boost economic development along its route. "Now, land prices along the Orange Line have increased and later more commercial areas can be expected along the route," he said.
As a major transportation project under CPEC, the Orange Line also serves a milestone of CPEC progress, according to lawmaker Khan.
"Pakistan had been suffering acute energy shortfall which has disrupted domestic life and industries. However, CPEC turned the table around and set some records by setting big powerhouses in a short time, which eased domestic life from urban to rural areas," he said.
"It also blew a new life into industries in the country, opening businesses including the Orange Line. The CPEC energy projects really became a basic cause of Pakistani industries' revival and development and are becoming very crucial for Pakistan which is struggling in its industrialization."
"CPEC gives Pakistan a new plan and road for development. CPEC gives hope with solid financial and technical support to Pakistan for development on modern footings which is more than any other help," Khan claimed. Enditem