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Infrastructure government's top priority: Prime Minister

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday said his government's priority was completion of mega development projects and an end to chronic loadshedding problem by 2017. Addressing the ground-breaking of the 24-km signal free corridor of Islamabad Expressway, the Prime Minister said besides development of infrastructure, the government was equally concentrating on energy-related projects.

The Rs 22 billion project of widening the existing Expressway to a 10-lane signal-free road would serve as a major link of Federal Capital with the rest of the country through the Grand Trunk road, shorten the travel time and help cut fuel costs. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said: "Pakistan today is at a take-off position, with investment pledges of US 46 billion under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor."

He said funding for development projects like Rawalpindi- Islamabad Metro were being made without disturbing the annual Public Sector Development Program. He rejected claims of the critics of Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro who said that funds for the project were diverted from other projects. The Prime Minister said his government was giving equal importance to addressing the problem of loadshedding and said this year there was less loadshedding as compared to the last year.

He mentioned a number of ongoing projects including the 960 MW Neelum Jhelum, 1400MW Tarbella-IV and 1000MW by LNG that would help address the issue. He said his government has the credit of lowering the tariff of per unit of electricity by Rs 5.32. The Prime Minister mentioned the upgradation of the M-2 Motorway, that needed its mandatory 10-year maintenance, but was neglected and his government had to undertake the project. He said the needful maintenance of the M-2 should have been done in 2008.

He expressed satisfaction over the ground-breaking of the long awaited signal-free project of the Expressway and termed it another significant addition to mega development projects of the capital. He said the project was very important as the widening of Expressway from Zero Point to Rawat would add more lanes than the motorway. Prime Minister Sharif emphasised on carrying out the project on international standards and said Islamabad would experience a remarkable improvement in infrastructure in the next two to three years.

The Prime Minister also announced plans for linking Rawat with the M-2 Motorway to provide an alternative route to Rawalpindi and Islamabad. He said the condition of other roads in the capital would also be improved with proper marking of lanes and signage of international standards. The Prime Minister directed Dr Tariq Fazal, MNA, to co-ordinate with the CDA on the project. The Prime Minister said plans were underway for construction of an overhead bridge and a bypass at Bhara Kahu which would facilitate the commuters heading to Murree.

The Prime Minister expressed dissatisfaction over the quality of work of the Murree Expressway. He said the project was a brainchild of his previous government; however, he regretted that the quality of the project was not up to the mark. He also mentioned plans of a new road to link Muzaffarabad with Mirpur Azad Kashmir along river Jhelum and said similar road projects were underway in Balochistan and other areas. The Prime Minister said regretfully the project of Lahore Airport was not carried out as per its design. He said the project's size was cut by half, yet the cost remained the same. He said separate terminals would be constructed for international and domestic flights.

About the Kashmir Highway, he said that the project was overdue since long and stressed accountability of those responsible for delay, and of reported corruption in the project. He said no corruption or scandals would be tolerated in projects of public importance. He said the critics of Islamabad-Rawalpindi Metro Bus were now appreciative of the project. He said he had asked Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to focus on more development projects in Rawalpindi. He said Rawalpindi city too would be developed at par with Islamabad. Earlier, the Prime Minister unveiled the plaque of the project here at the Shakarparian Parade Ground.

The first phase includes construction of a 4-km signal free 8- lane road from Zero Point to Faizabad, and construction of an interchange at I-8 intersection that would be completed within four months at a cost of Rs 1.6 billion. The second phase from Faizabad to Koral, stretching over 8-km would have 2 interchanges and 3 underpasses while the third phase would include upgradation of 12-km road from Koral to Rawat, having 4 bridges and a number of interchanges. Service Roads would be constructed on either side of the Expressway.

The completion of the 24-km long single free corridor would reduce the travelling distance from Zero Point to Rawat by 20 to 25 minutes. The 24-km long section of existing road from Zero Point is a mix of ten- to four-lane road, including several intersections. The worst and the longest section of the road is from Airport to Rawat Chowk, notorious for accidents, vehicle breakdowns due to poor condition of road and daily traffic jams.

The project involves widening of sections of Islamabad Expressway from Zero Point to Rawat also includes construction of interchanges and several underpasses to provide easy access to a number of housing colonies on either side of the road. Chairman Capital Development Authority Maroof Afzal said the project comprises six interchanges, including cloverleaf interchange at I-8 intersection, interchange at Sohan, cloverleaf interchange at Khanna Intersection, Airport Chowk and a partial cloverleaf interchange at G.T Road as well as up-gradation of Faizabad interchange.

He said in addition six vehicular underpasses and overpasses would be also constructed at different busy locations. The Chairman said traffic control centers equipped with modern equipment and security system were also part of the project. Chairman Capital Development Authority Maroof Afzal thanked the Prime Minister for announcing a special Rs 5 billion package for development and rehabilitation of Islamabad.

Copyright Associated Press of Pakistan, 2015