Lahore Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) project: A Critical Review


The mega projects are kind of integrated activities which can be classified as projects having high complexity in terms of technology and human usage. These projects are usually of greater costs and for the broader development of a state.  They are of extreme physical structure, high capacity working, expensive and under huge attention of public and government.  The mega projects can be of different sectors like energy, infrastructure, and communication and others. As these projects are launched with bigger aims, the economic units are also measured in million dollars. For this gigantic amount, a developing country like Pakistan has to make a plan or strategy for its long term functioning. Since 2015, Pakistan has signed a number of mega projects with china under the flag of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), not just with China but with other states also. 

Mega Projects in Pakistan

In addition to that, a number of developmental projects are domestically initiated. These projects include transport like railway, airports, highways, buses, power plants, dams, economic zones etc. The rationale is to get collective benefits and to open frontiers. The policy makers are always looking forward to the mega projects for their economic, political, technological and aesthetic sublime. The greater concern in starting these kinds of project revolves around the issue of higher costs. Many critics expressed that these projects need hard core planning for taking them upon considerations as there are high stakes involved specially for the country like Pakistan. The focus here is to find out the issue areas that should be examine for the success of large scale projects. The project under study is Lahore Orange Line Metro train (OLMT). 

Lahore Orange Line Metro train (OLMT)

The demand and supply in the urban lines of traffic has been increasing widely specially in a Lahore as it the second largest urban sector in Pakistan. The need of mass transit system was long felt and in May 2014, the project was signed between Pakistan and China as memorandum of understanding and is expected to be completed by 2017. As Christopher Midler explains the innovation of developmental ideas, this project was also innovatively commissioned for the development of long-term mass transit network for the feasibility of transport in the city. The financing was started in 2015 with the soft loan of 1.55b dollars. The phase 2 of the project started in 2016 and first test ran in 2018. This project has been through a bumpy road of non-completion and expected to be completed this year in October 2020.

Critical Analysis

Denico has executed six themes of analysis, after analyzing literature of good 86 articles, which are considered as conceptual framework to review the project of OLMT. Following are the themes which will help critically analyze the OLMT project:

1. Decision-making behavior

The poor performance through decision making is significantly related in literature of mega projects. This is due to the behavioral faults and faulty assessments with regards to the benefits and cost of the project. In addition to that, executives of the project usually misrepresent the trust in order to satisfy their personal interests. The behavior of the decision makers are resulted in unsuccessful outcomes as their behavior towards policies are obstinate and inflexible. 

In the OLMT project, it was assessed that it will be completed by 2017 but unfortunately not completed yet. Every passing year, the government announced the running of train for public in particular year. This has been delaying due to the defective evaluation and calculation of time with respect to finalization of project.

In addition to that, the cost of project was estimated incorrect as later on, it become double to what evaluated earlier. According to a senior official working on the project, the rolling stock, track, electrical and mechanical work s costs are almost double than civil structure. The higher cost and faulty assessment has made the government pay money through loans and thus, delayed the project overall. 

2. Strategy, Governance and Procurement

This involves the processes during the initiation and planning which reflects the front-end stage of the project. The decisions are made initially about the three main components that are role and responsibilities of the entities throughout the life cycle of project, formal and informal authority at both, institutional level and individual level and lastly, strategy to organize in terms of relation to the partners to get the best delivery or outcome. 

For the front to end stages, the written details are the foremost requirement as a great amount of money has to spend on it. In addition, the officials and those informally associated should have an organized definition and clarity of role and responsibilities that must be stated beforehand.  The OLMT is considered as star project of previous PML-N government. The contractors were asked to show a detailed presentation which they were dearth of. 

Additionally, the officials were given dead line by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to complete the project till May 2019. Still the government failed to meet the direction due to the litigation on heritage sites and the land acquisition problems. This delay means that the strategy or planning for the organized running of project has been neglected from the beginning.  

3. Risk and Uncertainty

It involves the process of technological development and decision making strategy to overcome the risk or uncertainties in mega projects. The technological originality to preemptively work on risk management and the preparedness for uncertain situations. There is a need of flexibility in the decision making process as well as there must be no time constraints. It has been observed that OLMT is equipped with a good quality and non-joint tracks of international standards. The metro line constructed before in the capital has been found doomed due to the infrastructure and technology faults. The Orange Line Metro Train is fully automatic and driverless, which leaves no compromise on standards can be taken at any cost. For instance, it will solely work on electricity which is again a high risk in a state like Pakistan. A good management will be highly required for regular check on working.

4. Leadership

Leadership is something required for any project to fulfil under the supervision and a hard working team and the relationship between the two. In a country like Pakistan, there is lacking sense of project culture and thus a misalignment can be observed. There should be a team work where the project must be design in a way to damage less and provide much gains and long term gains to the state collectively. According to a study more than 40 schools and colleges demolished for the making of a train track which is a huge responsibility on the leadership and the team.

5. Stake-holder engagement and management

It includes the structure formation under certain norms where it is necessary to engage stakeholders and community in the activities of project. Mosque, Churches, residential blocks, private businesses, traditional places, schools and colleges are either demolished fully or partially or threatened. This has terrified the general public and showed resentment at larger scale.

6. Supply-Chain integration and coordination 

It involved the integration of projects and sub projects and their commercial relationship. The primary cause of the poor performance is the independent working and lacking coordination at different levels. This OLMT project has also been designed on the poor understanding of architecture. It has destroyed many local businesses and important buildings which means that the route is not thoroughly coordinated and integrated.

These six themes are considered as gist to understand the loop holes in the successful regulation of mega projects from start till end. It is important to take up these points under consideration by the government for the large scale projects so to secure their trust of people and to take the country one step ahead. 

Recommendations

Pakistan as developing country needs to learn from other states and specially the literature that have been produced. There is a dire need to move step by step towards mega projects by understanding what has been missed and must not be taken for granted. Followings are some main learnings for the upholding of future mega projects:

• Preparedness

• Priority of customer satisfaction 

• Involving key decision makers from institutional to supply chain levels 

• Organizational responsiveness

• Skill and team work

• Management culture growth 

• Develop penalties for ignoring or providing misleading information

•  Introduce the option to defer to further assess risks

• The economic viability and avoid over commitment 

• Control and flexibility for political maneuvering 

• Emphasize on shorter pre-construction phase

• Higher probability of cost overrun

• Adopt integrated project teams to deliver the project

• Focus on simplification to avoid risks 

• Regular reports 

• Integration of stake holders and general masses 

• Integration of projects and sub projects 

• No compromise on Tech

• Competitive structures 

• Performance measurement

• Multi check and balance system 

These are only the basic and the focused measure that Pakistan should look forward in order to achieve long term and successful results. The first step that state should focus on is to research in order to understand the differences that Pakistan as a separate country faces. New studies must develop to learn from other states as well and to discuss the similarities and differences from other states. Still a key rule for these developmental mega project is to manage, evaluate and integrate for high performance.  



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