LAHORE: The Punjab government has been left without funding for the Southern Loop of the Lahore Ring Road after the Chinese refused to pay for the construction of the road, The Express Tribune has learned.

The government had been negotiating with the Chinese to seek investment for the construction of the remaining 48 kilometres of the Southern Loop and hoped to clinch a deal by this April. But when Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited China earlier this year, the investors showed more of an interest in the proposed Lahore Rapid Mass Transit System than the Ring Road. The government tried to convince the Chinese to invest on a build-operate-transfer basis or a public-private partnership, but failed.

An official of the Project Management Unit confirmed that the Chinese had refused to give any financial assistance for the completion of the Ring Road. Work on the Southern Loop was expected to start as soon as the funds were released as a feasibility report had already been conducted, he said. The project is divided into two parts, SL-1 and SL-2, and the government only has funding for the former, he said.

Nadeem Hassan Asif, Lahore’s commissioner and the project director for the Lahore Ring Road, denied that the Chinese had refused to fund SL-1. “Various options are under consideration and negotiations [with investors] are underway,” he said. Asked to elaborate, he said that he could not “at this stage”. He said the construction of the road would start soon but could not say exactly when. He said the construction of the Northern Loop would be finished in July.

The Punjab government has allocated Rs1.2 billion in the Punjab Budget 2011-12 for the Ring Road. This money will be used to complete the Northern Loop and to start work on SL-1, an 8.5-km stretch of road from the Sui Gas Housing Society to Gajjumatta. The cost of the land for SL-1 is estimated at Rs4.995 billion and the construction cost at Rs4.069 billion. An interchange will be constructed at Ferozepur Road.

Access roads and slip roads will also be constructed near the Ashiana housing scheme. Work on land acquisition for SL-l has started.
The construction of SL-1 is expected to ease the heavy traffic on Ferozepur Road, as well as Ghazi Road, by diverting traffic headed for GT Road towards the Ravi or Saggian Interchange.