PESHAWAR: Things may turn for better or for worse in the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa depending on how the execution of much-awaited Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) mega project goes forward from next month.

If the Peshawar Sustainable BRT Corridor Project is completed in its estimated record time of six months the development can change the face of Peshawar as well as give people a good reason to think before they vote in the next general election, but incomplete construction causing inconvenience may turn things for the worse for the ruling parties in the province.

With the next general election coming closer, completion of about 26 kilometres long BRT project would be not less than a race against time. Project design details are in progress and contractor’s selection process will start next month. The total cost of this mega project is estimated to be about Rs41 billion, officials said.

Official documents available with Dawn reveal that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will borrow Rs31.8 billion of the total cost from the Asian Development Bank that constitutes about 88.8 per cent of the total expenditure of the project.

The 26km long BRT will start from Chamkani and cover almost all major areas of the city

“Construction will start right after approval of the loan by ADB next month,” said a concerned official while sharing details of the Peshawar BRT project which was earlier called ‘Mass Transit System’.

If execution of the project starts by mid April, the project is expected to be completed by January 2018 while the tenure of the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government would expire in May 2018.

PTI chairman Imran Khan had been earlier deriding the Metro Bus in Lahore as ‘jangla bus’, claiming that his party’s focus was more on human development than construction of highways and roads as opposed to his political rival PML-N leaders Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif who had developed the metro bus systems in Islamabad and Lahore.

Completion of the Peshawar BRT is now only a race against time as Chief Minister Pervez Khattak is hoping to complete it in six months. The Islamabad Metro Bus project took 14 months to complete while Lahore Metro Bus service was functional in 11 months.

A comparative analysis of the metro bus systems in Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar revealed that while the 27km Lahore Metro Bus service was developed at Rs60 billion and the 23.2km long Islamabad metro bus service cost about Rs50 billion, Peshawar’s BRT would cost Rs41 billion.

However, government officials here acknowledge that costs might escalate. Lahore’s metro bus project was contracted out on market rate to ensure double shifts, while Peshawar’s BRT is likely to go on government approved rates only.

“The cost of Lahore Metro Bus project is about 67 per cent higher than that of Peshawar BRT,” said an official who admitted that the real test lied in completion of this mega project in its estimated time.

However, another government official expressed his apprehensions about construction cost of the Peshawar BRT on government rates, saying it might slow the project down and its completion date might overshoot.

“If we don’t do it at market rate like the Punjab government has done, I fear we might not complete it by January 2018,” said the official.

The Peshawar RBT project would not only resolve the agonising problem of traffic congestion in the provincial capital, it would also give a much-needed facelift to the terrorism-torn provincial capital.

The 26km BRT corridor having 31 stations would be running about 14.9km at grade, about 6km at elevated level and some 4.9km through tunnel. It would also have additional features like 68 kilometers feeder bus route service, high standard bus stops at about seven feeder routes with shelter and advanced passenger information system.

About 383 big and small buses from feeding area would be plying to the main route. Commercial area and one nine-storey plaza with parking and two three-storey parking plazas are also additional features of this project, officials said.

The Peshawar BRT would start from Chamkani, go along GT Road’s famous spots like Khyber Bazaar, Soekarno Chowk, Railway Road, Dabgari, Sunehri Masjid Road and onwards passing through a tunnel near Aman Chowk.

The route would then take a left turn before the Bab-i-Peshawar Bridge, go at elevation through dried riverbed to old sewerage treatment plants and onward to Bagh-i-Naraan, Tatara Park, passing by PDA building and end at Jamrud Road with Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital as its last stop, according to the project documents.

Busy bazaars like Saddar, Khyber and those on the University Road would have the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. Toilets and restrooms at all stations along the corridor would also be constructed, said an official.

Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2017