RAWALPINDI: Only 35 metro buses are operating between the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, while the other half are still parked at the bus depot, due to a lukewarm response from commuters.
The Punjab government procured 68 metro buses to run between Rawalpindi and Islamabad, on a route that cost Rs44.8 billion to construct. The project is considered one of the most expensive in the country.
A senior official from the Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) told Dawn that less than 30 buses were operating on the metro bus route due to a lack of passengers.
He said that 80,000 passengers, on average, use the service to commute between the twin cities daily, despite the government’s claim that 150,000 passengers would use the service every day.
He said the government’s estimates had proven incorrect, and that the number of commuters had not increased in six months. He added that the government planned to procure 32 more buses, since it constructed a bus depot at Peshawar Mor that can accommodate over 100 buses.
Only 35 buses operating between twin cities due to a shortage of passengers
He also said that, at many stations, elevators were not being used by senior citizens as they were defected. He said that most people relied on the escalators and stairs rather than the elevators.
“Third party evaluation of the project will start soon, after the project’s two main components – the Peshawar Mor interchange and the command and control building – have been completed. These issues will appear before the government after this,” he said.
However, many bus stations have seen crowds and long queues – which the passengers blame on a shortage of buses. “I tried to catch the bus at Chandni Chowk to go to Saddar, and after waiting for 20 minutes, I couldn’t find a seat because people were crammed into the buses coming from Islamabad,” Ashar Ahmed, a passenger, said.
Another passenger, Mohammad Naseem, said the bus service was good, but that the government needed to increase the number of buses operating on the route.
He said the government was saving fuel and running fewer buses. “An artificial crowd was created deliberately to show that people thronged to metro bus stations to avail the service provided by the government,” he claimed.
The Metro Bus Project Monitoring Committee chairperson, former MNA Hanif Abbasi, confirmed that half of the total fleet of buses was being used due to lower passenger numbers.
He said that, at present, 35 buses are operating on the route, and that the operational manager would increase the number of buses when the number of passengers increases.
He said that, at present, 130,000 people travel between Rawalpindi and Islamabad on the metro bus.
When contacted, Rawalpindi Commissioner Sajid Zafar Dall said more than 35 buses were operating, to cater to 135,000 daily commuters.
Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2016