For the first time in Lahore, one of Pakistan’s largest cities, subway trains are bringing residents joy and convenience.
On Monday, thousands of people including students and government officials took to the stations for their first train ride. It was not uncommon to see whole families riding from one end of the line to the other and back.
Among the scenes at the subway stations were those of people shouting, “Thank you China” and “Long Live Pakistan-China friendship”.
With help of builders from China, Pakistan’s first Mass Rapid Transit system was inaugurated by Punjab’s Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar on Oct 26.
Aabid Klasra, a doctor at the Mayo hospital, was lucky to be among the first batch of passengers on Monday morning. It took him 15 minutes to reach his hospital by the subway. It used to take him 55 minutes by car to cover the same distance.
“It’s an amazing project. It’s safe, hustle free and comfortable transport. The project would be a blessing for common people, especially for students and officegoers who commute daily, by providing them cheap, quick and comfortable travel,” Klasra said.
Named the Orange Line Metro Train, the new line runs more than 27 kilometers with 26 stations. It employs more than 200 people and creates at least 10,000 indirect jobs by kicking off economic activity, analysts said.
At the launch ceremony, the chief minister said: “We are grateful to China for extending support to provide world-class transport facilities to the people of Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab. It was a much-needed project. Thank you for making it possible as promised.”
He also invited businesses to invest in Pakistan by taking advantage of the government’s business-friendly policies.
Jahanzaib Khan Khichi, Punjab’s provincial transport minister, said: “Not only has the ‘Orange Train’ project further strengthened the bond of China-Pakistan friendship, but is also a living example of how the CPEC(China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) is changing lives of common Pakistanis. It’s a gift to the Pakistani people which provides a high-class transportation service of international standards.”
The project will help the government to “counter the rising air pollution by reducing the use of thousands of smoky vehicles”, the minister said, adding that a wave of economic activities will also be triggered alongside the route of the train service.
With about 10 million inhabitants, Lahore is the second-largest urban center in Pakistan.
“In order to cope with the ever-increasing traffic congestion, there was an urgent need to develop mass transit transport facilities in Lahore to meet the predicted passenger demand. I am sure the Orange Line Metro Line System is going to do the job perfectly,” said Mohsin Leghari, a Punjab provincial official.
Aided by the Export-Import Bank of China, the line was built by a joint venture of China Railway Corporation and China North Industries Corporation. It serves as the first of three rail lines of the Lahore Metro master plan, which is expected to transport half a million people daily by 2025.
The Orange Line Metro Line System is the most efficient and environmentally friendly transportation system for a modern, big city, said Wang Yunlin, executive deputy general manager of the Orange Line Project.
“The project adopted advanced Chinese technology, standards, design concepts and equipment at a lower cost than similar projects in other countries,” Wang said.
Fayaz-ul-Hasan Chohan, information minister of Punjab, expected the line to prove beneficial for commuters in Lahore.
“The Orange Lane Metro Train project, like other projects of the CPEC, will benefit the people of Pakistan. Our government will continue to implement the CPEC in a true spirit as it is not a project of any political party or government but is a project of the Pakistani people,” he said.
A commuter takes the new metro line in Lahore, Pakistan, on Monday. LIU TIAN/XINHUA