Kalma Chowk: Underpass on hold over mass transit concerns

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LAHORE: The government has decided to put a hold on work on an underpass at Kalma Chowk amidst concerns about funding and the design of the project, The Express Tribune has learnt.

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif inaugurated the construction of a flyover on Ferozepur Road and an underpass connecting Gulberg and Garden Town at Kalma Chowk in March and directed the officials concerned to complete the project by August 14.

While work on the flyover is continuing, the underpass project has not started yet. Officials said that this was because of a lack of funds and concerns from the Chinese company due to build the Lahore Rapid Mass Transit System that the underpass would interfere with its plans to build infrastructure for a city metro.

Communication and Works chief engineer Munawwar Bashir said the original plan to complete construction during the summer had had to be shelved. “We realised that the underpass project would be disrupted by the monsoon,” he said.

“I cannot say when construction of the underpass will begin exactly,” he said. Asked how much the project would cost, he said that this had not been calculated yet.

A source said that the Chinese company had also objected to the flyover design, but Bashir denied this, saying that the flyover design left sufficient space for an underground train.

A Planning and Development official told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity that lack of funds was a concern, but the LRMTS was the main problem. He said that at the start of the flyover project, Planning and Development officials had warned Sharif that it would leave no money for other development projects, including the underpass.

He said that the company in charge of the Lahore Rapid Mass Transit System (LRMTS) project had not decided yet whether the train would cross the Kalma Chowk junction under the ground or on elevated tracks, but earlier studies had suggested that building an underground tunnel was the best option. But an underpass at Kalma Chowk would scupper that option, he said.

The official said that the underpass would not be built until the Chinese company completed the feasibility study for the LRMTS project or gave the government the green light for it.

Kalma Chowk project director Sabir Khan denied that funding was an issue, but the government had not yet decided to start construction. He said that the chief minister had not been briefed about the underpass project as the National Engineering Services of Pakistan (NESPAK) was still preparing the feasibility report.

He said that the LRMTS project would not be affected by the underpass. “The project would only be disturbed if we used the piling technique while constructing the underpass,” he said.

Khan said Nespak would consider the train crossing when preparing its design for the underpass. He refused to give any technical details, saying that he could not comment until the design was finalised.

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Kalma Chowk: Underpass on hold over mass transit concerns
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