Issues with the Current Orange Metro Line

Cost Comparison: Lahore Metro cost per Km = $60.51million. Jakarta MRT cost per Km = $40million[1].

Cost Excludes: Total costs for the Orange Line do not include Loan Interest, Land Acquisition, repair and reconstruction of Public Buildings and Amenity Plots. Relocation costs of existing urban services like, water, sewerage, electricity etc. Projected loss of international/domestic tourism revenue because of obstruction of open view of heritage sites. Stabilization costs of existing buildings near Cut and Cover section. Social costs of destruction of livelihoods and communities.

Interest on increasing Debt: The Chinese Loan is PKR166.4B ($1.6B) at an interest rate of 3% per annum to be paid in 20years. The Chinese company NORINCO will provide Rolling Stock (trains, signals etc.) for PKR104B ($1B). Civil works will be done by local contractors for PKR62.4B ($0.6B). All payments to parties will be made by the Chinese directly. Interest alone on this loan in the 1st year will be PKR 5.48B ($52.76million at 3% rate) or PKR 4.38B ($42.21million at 2.4% rate).[2] Loan will be paid back in 20 years.

Environment: Temperature & Noise. The effects of Climate Change and the Urban Heat Island effect can increase temperatures in Lahore over 6-8 degrees Celsius. The Heat Island effect is measured as heat trapped in built surfaces radiates in the air raising ambient atmospheric temperatures. The loss of trees and unpaved surfaces contributes directly to this heat gain.[3]

Health: The Impact on human health because of increased heat and increased pollutants, both in short and long terms has not been fully assessed. The Karachi Heat wave of 2015 and the unprecedented loss of life that followed is an example of the impact of rising temperatures, and lack of consideration of a tangible change in global climate and heat patterns. The creation of air tunnels under the elevated expressways increases staying time of pollutants like Carbon Monoxide, Sulphur Dioxide and particulate matter like Lead. The International Agency for Research on Cancer and World Health Organization designate airborne particulates a Group 1 carcinogen. Particulates are the deadliest form of air pollution that penetrate deep into lungs and blood streams unfiltered, causing permanent DNA mutations, heart attacks, and premature death. In 2013, a study involving 312,944 people in 9 European countries revealed that there was no safe level of particulates and that for every increase of 10 μg/m3 in PM10, the lung cancer rate rose 22%. The smaller PM2.5 were particularly deadly, with a 36% increase in lung cancer per 10 μg/m3. Lahore’s particulate matter index is extremely high as per the World Health Organization. Elevated viaducts such as those for the Lahore Metro System will only trap this particulate matter further and result in adverse impacts on human health.


Heritage: At least 25 listed and protected sites on the route such as Shalimar Gardens, Chauburji, Lakshmi building, Mauj Darya Shrine will be impacted or forever lost due to the project. International and national laws safeguarding built heritage such as the World Heritage Convention, National Antiquities Act, Punjab Special Premises Ordinance have been violated or made ineffectual. The stabilization and underpinning of existing building foundations for safety near the Cut and Cover section of the Orange Line has not been considered nor been brought into the total project cost. The environment of several key Mughal monuments will forever be altered and the track and stations will block their open views

Homelessness: Official estimates for land required for the project range from 1000-1200kanals of land for the Orange Line.[4] A lack of clear frameworks dictating protocols of land acquisition, due compensation and timely payment will render thousands homeless. The Orange Line passes through some of the densely populated areas in the city with figures from 9,000-31,000 persons per square kilometer. Kapurthala House in Purani Anarkali (one in 26 stations) alone has a total of 2,700 registered voters with an average of 8 family members per household.

Destruction of Livelihood & Economic Opportunity: Thousands of street vendors, small shops and businesses will be either effected or destroyed. These include plazas in busy squares such as Chauburji chowk,  shops in Jain Mandir, Lakshmi, Shalimar etc. These small shops have multiple workers & small entrepreneurs who may not be able to recover from the impact on their running businesses.

Destruction of Community Public Services: Communities along the length of the route are losing several amenities such as graveyards, schools, mosques, Imambargahs, post offices, hospitals, clinics. The Institute for Disabled Children, which serves 200 families of North Lahore is marked for demolition.

Governance & Due Process Issues:  As listed above, the PC-1 omits several costs which if considered, would render the project non-viable. A strategy for bearing further costs which are above and over the PKR166.4B loan, and Rs. 10B marked for Orange Train in the Punjab Development Budget 2015-16 still remains to be made public.

Due Process: The 2007 Systra Study recommended using Tunnel underground technology (7km from Chauburg to GT Road) at locations with heritage sites and densely populated neighborhoods so that surface damage may be contained[5]. The Government uses this study as the basis for Orange Train but instead plans cheaper Cut & Cover (1.6km) technology and elevated which destroys the surface and anything on it permanently. The Elevated Track will range in height from 26ft (or = 2 storey) – 59ft (or = 6 storey building) and will allow 250,000 commuters a peep straight into properties compromising viability, property value, and privacy. The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the Project does not factor this loss of privacy or property value into account. The Project began officially on the 25th of October but the loan agreement was signed on the 21st of December 2015. Civil Works had already started before loan agreement, and the Punjab Government had provided bridge finance through Bank of Punjab of PKR6B to contractors of civil works, a loan guaranteed by the Punjab Government.

On ground, effected communities have not been taken into confidence, and in violation of the Land Acquisition Act, effected parties have not been served any notification which denies them the right to go to court. Currently effected parties are finding out about acquisition only when surveyors come to make markings on their properties.

Legal Issues: The Land Acquisition Act 1894 requires that the State only take land from citizens, if an absolute necessity and the State must allow effected parties to challenge the acquisition in court as a fundamental human and constitutional right. Failing which, it is also the responsibility of the State to compensate effected parties fairly for their loss.

The Project is leading the Government to violate Article 11 of World Heritage Convention and National Antiquities Act 1975Punjab Special Premises Preservation Ordinance 1985 for heritage sites at Shalimar. A de-listing of both the Lahore Fort and the Shalimar from the World Heritage Sites List is expected due to this. By not sharing publically the details of the public project the Government is violating Transparency & Right to Information Act 2013 and thus establishing anti-democratic precedents.

Questionable Sustainability and Contrary Development: As per the Metro Authority the Lahore Metro Bus is operating on a subsidy of PKR 4million per day while independent sources place it as high as PKR 6.57million per day. The Government has so far given a subsidy of PKR 2.4B (2013-14) for the Green Line. The subsidy allocation for 2014-15 is PKR 2B and for 2015-16, its PKR 3B as listed in the 2015-16 budget document[6]. This subsidy is to be given for 50 years. What if a new government has different priorities and does not give subsidy? This lop sided development with emphasis on mobility is coming at the cost of investments in improving Education and Health across the province.

In terms of Transport Planning, the government’s development models of Signal Free corridors, and mass transit (metro) schemes are contrary to one another. While one champions the common man, nothing is being done to cultivate a culture where the dependence on private transport vehicles is reduced. The Government needs to develop and then share publically an integrated Transport Plan of Lahore.

Development Paradigm: Larger concerns behind the Orange Metro Train project focus on the selected development paradigm pursued in this and previous State administrations. The development paradigm which concentrates purely on infrastructure without Human Security & Human Capital Development through Health, Education, Vocational Training, Employment Generation will lead to lop-sided development. Punjab’s Development Budget (2015-16) figures for Construction & Transport = PKR158B while Education = PKR44B and for Health = PKR20.7B


Conclusion:  The need for efficient & effective Mass Transport Systems for Lahore is real. But it must be developed with foresight through proper management systems and due consideration to all types of users from cars to cyclist to pedestrians, utilizing existing roads, and investments in buses and footpaths. A Mass Transit System effectively integrated with existing transport system must be developed in the long term using Tunnel technology with costs and character of the city in mind.


Current design of Orange Metro Line will reconfigure the city for the worse. We’ll have to bear the cost of this project including human displacement, livelihoods, health and heritage for longer than envisioned in loan repayment. Most critically, the entire Metro project will leave larger transport issues of Lahore unresolved and larger majority of population un-serviced. Rather than an integrated Mass Transit System, the Green Line first & now Orange Line design will negate it. Eg. Orange Line station is 1/2 km away from Railway Station rather than being underground-integrated for benefit of commuters with luggage.

Most above listed issues would not occur if Metro was according to originally studied-conceived design.

Stop Construction – Conduct Detailed Review – Resolve Conflicts – Proceed

[1] Transport Development in Asian Megacities, Shigeru Morichi, Surya Raj Acharya editors, Springer Books, 2013)

[2] Lahore Orange Line Metro Train Project PC-1, April 2015, National Engineering Services Pakistan (Pvt.) Ltd

[3] Urbanization effects on temperature trends of Lahore during 1950‐2007, International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management. * M. Ghous, K. Khalida, **A. Basit, ***J. Hassan, Temporal Analysis of Urbanization and Resulting Local Weather Change: A Case Study of Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan, Sci.Int.(Lahore),27(2), 1281-1287,2015.

[4] Khalid Husnain, Orange Line project Land acquisition to impact routine life, commercial activities, Nov 1, 2015.

[5] Lahore Metro: Green and Orange Lines, Pakistan.