- Benefits of new transit system justify the subsidy
After much delay, Lahore’s Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) project has become commercially operational with both the PTI and the PML-N squabbling over who gets the credit for its completion. Because much of the work, with some estimates putting it at 95%, was completed under Shehbaz Sharif’s tenure as Chief Minister of Punjab, it is understandable why the PML-N held a parallel ribbon cutting ceremony on inauguration day. It is therefore quite hypocritical that the PTI is celebrating the opening of a project that the party severely criticized, labeling it as a drain on public funds and a vehicle for corruption. Putting the politics to one side, it has to be said that the salient features of the project are quite impressive and will benefit daily commuters immensely. The route alignment of the trains is such that they will pass through some of the most highly congested areas in Lahore allowing one to save crucial time spent waiting in long traffic jams. The subsidized cost of Rs 40 to travel end-to-end in less than 45 minutes with 26 stations guarantees cheap and accessible transport and it is estimated that 245,000 passengers will use the facility on a daily basis. This will also translate into less cars and motorcycles on the roads, as a more economical public transport option will be available.
OLMT also happens to be the country’s first electricity-run mass transit project, which means there will be less breakdowns and maintenance as is the case with conventional trains. From an environmental perspective, fewer combustion engines on the road means less air pollution as well, not to mention a possible reduction in the demand for fuel in Lahore. That the project is the first large-scale technologically advanced rail transit project under the Belt and Road Initiative and CPEC, makes it all the more crucial for it to be a success. It is imperative therefore that the highest possible standard of service quality is maintained, the timeliness of trains is ensured and most importantly, the trains and stations are kept clean.