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New hope for mass transit system in Islamabad

Internews Report

ISLAMABAD: The Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) has proposed to own the ambitious mass transit rail system project between federal capital Islamabad and its twin city Rawalpindi, which is rusting in the files of Pakistan Railways and Capital Development Authority for years.

To let the project die itself with the passage of time, the CDA has already engaged itself in construction of roads, flyovers and avenues within the capital territory while the administration in Rawalpindi has only plans but taken no concrete action to resolve the ever-increasing traffic congestion in the city.

During the era of former President Pervez Musharraf, work on the Leh Expressway was inaugurated while Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif later announced to construct an elevated expressway. However, none of the projects was able to take off.

RCCI President Kashif Shabbir said Wednesday that contacts had been established with Pakistan Railways and its advisory and consultancy services, claiming with their collaboration his organisation would work on the project and seek foreign assistance for its realisation. “We expect to complete the study of the project during the next three months,” he added.

Shabbir expressed the desire that the mass transit project should be completed on the basis of build, operate and transfer (BOT), claiming that there was great international interest in development projects in Pakistan. In this connection, he mentioned the possible flow of funds under the controversial Kerry-Lugar Bill, adding the government should give some thought to such projects.

He said once the feasibility report was ready, the RCCI would hold meetings with the ministry of railways and CDA and would actively engage in the project, which was vital for promotion of business activities as well as tourism. As a first step, the RCCI discussed the proposal at its executive committee meeting here this week.

However, at a time when Pakistan Railways is facing huge losses, its financial strength allows only the maintenance of existing rolling stock and not undertaking any multi-million project like the mass transit system.

It may be recalled that Sheikh Rashid Ahmad had vowed to materialise the dream of the mass transit system during his tenure as federal minister for railways in the Shaukat Aziz cabinet. However, no concrete measure was taken by the previous government to take up the project.

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