Nicola Watts
News & Views
Pakistan’s early Christmas present from China

Pakistan’s first Metro train has arrived in Lahore to great fanfare. The Orange Line Metro train (OMLT) service will be Pakistan’s first modern mass rapid transit system, and is on schedule to be launched on December 25th.

The fully automated, driverless system is the result of a joint collaboration with China as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative. CPEC seeks to modernise Pakistan’s infrastructure and strengthen its economy. It’s a key component of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative that aims to revive China’s historic Silk Road. CPEC’s total investment is $62 billion and encompasses a network of railways, roads and pipelines, connecting Pakistan’s port city of Gwadar in the province of Balochistan with the Chinese city of Kashgar in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

27 trains in total are expected to transport 250,000 people a day along the 27.1 kilometre, 26 station route though the Punjab’s capital city. Each train has a capacity to carry at least 1,000 passengers at speeds of 80 kilometres an hour along the heavily congested route, reducing current travel time from 2.5 hours to only 45 minutes!

The train will run on electricity and is designed and produced by CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotive Co., based in central China’s Hunan province. Each train, consisting of five coaches, has an energy-saving air-conditioning system suitable for Pakistan’s constant high summer temperature and a structure to handle Lahore’s unstable voltage. The train design combines the national flower of Pakistan, Jasmine, and the shape of the dome of the Badshahi Mosque.

The train will cost Pakistan $1.6 billion over a 20 year instalment plan, kicking in after the first seven years. It’s the first of three planned rail lines which in total are expected to transport half a million people daily.

Lahore has a population of over 11 million people, seven million of which commute daily. The OMLT will transform Lahore’s and Pakistan’s transportation system, reducing traffic and daily commuting time, enabling easier travel while raising the standard of living for many and boosting the economy. It can be regarded as a key facilitator in the growth of Pakistan’s emergent middle-class consumers.

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