Gujrat: People of Malakwal tehsil of Mandi Bahauddin and Pind Dadan Khan tehsil of Jhelum district as well as Sargodha have got another ray of hope as the Punjab government has reportedly approved the construction of a new bridge for a road over the Jhelum river to link both the tehsils at Chak Nizam.

The only way of crossing the river for the people of the area for the last five decades has been the railway’s Victoria Bridge near Chak Nizam which they mostly cross on foot as only two trains ply on the route daily.

PML-N MNA Nasir Iqbal Bosal revealed at a reception given by a party leader at Malakwal the other day that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif approved the new bridge over the river with an estimated cost of Rs1.5 billion. He said the project would be completed within a year, just ahead of the general elections.

The chairmen of Mandi Bahauddin and Jhelum district councils, Ghulam Hussain Bosal and Raja Qasim Ali, respectively, as well as PML-N MNA Nawabzada Raja Matloob Mehdi from Jhelum were also present.

Mr Bosal claimed the government had released funds for the project; however, sources in the district administration of Mandi Bahauddin told Dawn the funds were not yet released and the CM had just given approval to the project.

The MNA said he had pledged during the 2013 election that he would get a new bridge constructed over the river and now he had honoured his commitment.

About 4,000 people cross the Victoria Bridge on foot daily after reaching at the bridge through motorcycle-rickshaws from both sides. The bridge has a track also for pedestrians to cross over; however, previously the federal and provincial governments had approved an asphalted road along the railway track of the bridge which could never be executed. The provincial government has now approved the project of constructing a separate bridge on the river.

The British had constructed the Victoria Railway Bridge some 80 years back. The demand for new bridge has been there since dictatorial regime of Gen Ayub Khan. During the Gen Zia regime, Rs50m were allocated for it, retired Gen Musharraf allocated Rs1bn for it and laid foundation stone but these projects could not materialise. In 2012, the then President Asif Zardari had allocated Rs390m for the road along the railway track and released Rs290m for it but the project was shelved when the PML-N government came into power in Islamabad after the 2013 election.

The locals say they have pinned new hopes on the fresh announcement of construction of a new bridge instead of an asphalted road along the railway’s track.

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