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Last stop for women-only transport service

May 18, 2014

RAWALPINDI: Just after three months of its operation, the Regional Transport Authority (RTA) has put brakes on the sole women transport service.

This created unrest among the women conductors of the service who staged a protest in front of the RTA offices near Fatima Jinnah Women University on Rashid Minhas Road on Saturday.

A public-private partnership, the transport service, comprising 12 wagons under the banner of ‘Tabeer’, was operating in collaboration with two firms, Al-Abrar Associates and cellular company Zong on two routes — Kohinoor Mills to Soan Bus terminal and from Saddar to Pakistan Secretariat.

A senior official of the local administration told Dawn that after the investors stopped financing the project, the RTA could not arrange alternative source of funding to keep the service running. But the RTA on the other hand insisted that the service had been suspended for a month due to construction work on Murree Road.

RTA Secretary Awais Manzoor Tarar told Dawn that after the start of work on Metro Bus Project the number of passengers for the women-specific vans reduced.

“In March, the seat occupation was 60 per cent but after the start of construction work it reduced to 20 per cent in April-May,” he said. He said the RTA conducted the survey to ascertain the reason for reduction in the number of passengers and found that working women opted for other fast means of transport as their wagon used to move slow on Murree Road due to the construction work.

“The daily expenditure of the transport service increased but the earning reduced. After seeing the gap between expenditure and earning, the RTA decided to stop the service for a month. It is the best project and will not be stopped permanently,” he said.

On the other hand, the senior official of the local administration said shortage of funds was the main reason as the RTA allowed the women transport service to use Murree Road and other transport had been diverted to alternative routes.

Meanwhile, more than 15 woman conductors gathered in front of the RTA offices and demanded the service be restored.

Under the scheme, the women conductors got a monthly salary of Rs14,000 per month and Rs2,000 per month for lunch.

“Services of the women conductors were hired for four months and after three months, the government stopped the bus service,” said Rubina Ashraf, a conductor while talking to Dawn.

She said the number of passengers had not reduced, adding that working women were using the service regularly. She said the RTA’s claim that the number of passengers had reduced was without any ground.

“I was shocked to learn that the women transport service has been stopped. I used this service daily from Committee Chowk to Zero Point as it was safe. It should not be stopped,” said Saeeda Parveen, a working woman while talking to Dawn.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2014