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May 21, 2018
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Swat Expressway being partially opened today

National

May 21, 2018

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PESHAWAR: The Swat Expressway, a mega project of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government, is being opened partially for traffic today despite being incomplete. Work on the 81-kilometre road from Karnal Sher Khan Interchange on Motorway M-I to Chakdarra was launched in August 2016. The project was scheduled to be completed in December 2017.

However, it couldn’t be completed in time and is still far behind completion but the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, for which Swat Expressway is an iconic scheme, wants to inaugurate the highway despite being incomplete. The 50-kilometre portion of the motorway from Karnal Sher Khan Interchange to Katlang would be inaugurated today as per the government’s announcement.

Since the government is going to complete its tenure on May 28, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak is in a hurry to inaugurate even the incomplete projects. He was scheduled to open the under-construction Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project on Sunday but couldn’t do so. The inauguration of the incomplete Swat Expressway is scheduled for today.

Though opening of the expressway at this movement would serve no purpose as the main beneficiaries, the people of Malakand division cannot use it until completion of the remaining portion up to Chakdarra. As per government version, the Swat Expressway portion from Karnal Sher Interchange to Katlang will be opened. The remaining part up to Chakdarra would be inaugurated in December.

Interestingly, the portion to be opened today is not fully operational as bridges at many places have not been constructed. Unfortunately, the PTI government couldn’t complete both the mega projects it had launched.

Addressing the groundbreaking ceremony at the starting point (Karnal Sher Khan Interchange) on August 25, 2016, the chief minister had said the highway would be completed in 15 months. “Though the stipulated time period for the project completion is 18 months but the FWO [Frontier Works Organisation] has assured its completion in 15 months. I am hopeful keeping in view its track record, the FWO would complete it before the stipulated time,” he had assured.

Pervez Khattak during a visit to the project site said first section of the motorway from Karnal Sher Interchange to Katlang would be opened in March but that, too, was delayed till May. The provincial government is paying Rs17 billion of the Rs40 billion to be spent on the project. The FWO would collect the remaining amount through toll tax in 25 years.

To make the Swat Expressway more beneficial, 10,000 acres of land has been acquired near Karnal Sher Interchange for establishment of industrial zone under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

The Swat Expressway is first of its kind being executed by a provincial government. It will benefit Malakand, Swat, Shangla, Lower Dir, Upper Dir, Chitral and Bajaur Agency. On completion, the highway would reduce the travel time from Chakdarra to Peshawar or Islamabad at least by two hours.

The 81-kilometre long and 80-meter wide motorway will have two tunnels of three kilometres and interchanges at Dhobian, Ismaila, Bakhshali, Katlang, Palai and Chakdarra. Over 18,000 vehicles would ply it daily.

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