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June 19, 2019

Swat Motorway reduces distances, promotes tourism

National

June 19, 2019

PESHAWAR: Motorists and commuters felt excited as they drove on the brand new Swat Motorway which was opened to light traffic during the Eidul Fitr holidays.

The 81-kilometres long, four-lane motorway experienced heavy rush of vehicles from the Karnal Sher Khan Interchange, which takes off from the Islamabad-Peshawar M1 Motorway in Nowshera and passes through Swabi, Mardan and Malakand before reaching Chakdara in Lower Dir district.

An official of the Frontier Works Organization (FWO), which has built the Swat Motorway under a contract with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Highway Authority (KPHA), said around 12,000 vehicles used the motorway from both sides on the first day of Eidul Fitr. He said on the subsequent two days of Eid, 11,000 to 11,500 vehicles entered the motorway to reach Malakand division, which has many tourist destinations, and Islamabad and other places in Punjab and beyond.

The heavy rush of vehicles was in a way a rehearsal of the traffic that would be seen on the Swat Motorway once the construction work is complete. The FWO and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government haven’t announced the date of completion of the project yet. A FWO official, however, said a few additional structures being built would take some more time to complete. The opening of the Swat Motorway to light traffic was hailed as an Eid gift to tourists who were keen to reach Swat, Dir, Chitral and other tourist destinations in Malakand division to spend the Eidul Fitr holidays. The journey of three hours up to Chakdara could now be made in about 45 minutes.

The Swat Motorway has been nearly completed in less than three years. The road is 80 metres wide having four lanes, though it could be extended to six lanes in future. Many motorists felt it should have been made six-lane as this would be needed sooner rather than later due to the expected rush of vehicles using it. The twin-tube tunnels, 1.3 kms in length, across the hills at Zulamkot and Allah Dhand Dheray near Chakdara are also unique and therefore a tourist attraction.

The motorway has six interchanges starting from the Karnal Sher Khan Interchange to Dobian, Ismaila, Bakhshali, Katlang and Palai. As the Katlang Interchange is located in Babozai where the villagers had to give up their land and houses for the building of the Swat Motorway, there is a vocal demand for naming it as Babozai Interchange. The issue of acquiring land from the landowners in Chakdara is also holding up the construction of the big interchange there.

The only spot yet on the Swat Motorway being developed for a place for rest and

refreshment is located at the 42 kms site from Karnal Sher Khan Interchange to near Katlang. Some of the drivers who drove on the Swat Motorway complained that the road was a bit uneven at certain points. However, the project isn’t complete yet and the shortcomings would hopefully be overcome in the future.

The FWO, realizing its corporate social responsibility, has started meeting the needs of the state-run primary schools in the villages affected by the Swat Motorway. It recently provided mats, carpets, white boards, chairs and tables, water coolers, water tanks, drinking water sets, ceiling fans, electricity bulbs, etc to the boys and girls primary schools in 12 villages. One school is being assisted by building toilets. The FWO has plans to provide these materials to more primary schools.

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