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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has taken notice of the uncertainty regarding the operation of the new metro bus service from Peshawar Mor.

The track will be completed soon but so far, it has not been decided who will operate the new bus service.

The premier directed the National Highway Authority (NHA) to float a request for proposals and to start the tendering process immediately. The successful bidder will be dealt by a company to be incorporated by the Capital Development Authority (CDA).

NHA told to float tenders for bus service to be maintained by firm that will be looked after by CDA

NHA officials told Dawn that the prime minister had last week directed the authority to immediately float the request for proposals for the procurement of bus services along with ancillary services and contracts for immediately making the Airport-Peshawar Mor bus service operational.

According to the officials, the premier has directed that the tender documents and the request for proposals should explicitly mention that all contracts awarded will be subsequently be novated to a successor company to be incorporated by the CDA for the operation and maintenance of the said bus line project.

The NHA is doing construction work on the project for the 25.6 km track worth Rs16 billion, from Peshawar Mor to the new airport and, according to the officials, the work is near completion.

The letter from the Prime Minister’s Office, available with Dawn, says: “While reviewing the progress of New Islamabad Airport, prime minister has noted with concerns that even though substantial physical progress has been done so far to construction of the metro bus corridor, absolutely nothing has been done so far to contract out procurement, operation and maintenance etc of bus service itself”.

It goes on to say that the prime minister believes immediate steps should be taken for contracting out the procurement, operation, maintenance and ancillary facilities of bus services so the facility is available to commuters when the corridor is completed.

“Since Punjab Mass Transit Authority [the current operator of the Rawalpindi-Islamabad metro bus] has expressed its inability to operate this project, the prime minister in view of the public interest and the current limitations of CDA has pleased to direct that NHA shall immediately float RFPs,” the letter says.

The prime minister has directed for the process of floating request for proposals and tenders to be expedited and fully synchronised with the completion of civic works in the project.

The communication division, NHA and CDA have been directed to take immediate further action accordingly for the implementation of the prime minister’s orders.

When asked, NHA spokesperson Kashif Zaman confirmed that the authority has received the premier’s directives through the Ministry of Communications for initiating the procurement process for making the new metro bus service operational.

CDA spokesperson Malik Saleem said the civic agency has started work on the drafting an action plan in light of the prime minister’s directive.

CDA officials Dawn spoke to said that the civic agency will have to make amendments to the CDA ordinance of 1960 for operating and maintaining the bus service through a company as according to the current ordinance, operating a bus service is not the CDA’s mandate.

However, the CDA spokesperson said he does not know if an amendment will be needed.

“But we will fulfil all requirements for the implementation of the prime minister’s order in letter and spirit,” he said.

The NHA and CDA have been at loggerheads over the construction of two underpasses on the Kashmir Highway. The CDA has been requesting the NHA to construct to underpasses to link G-16 with H-16 and G-17 with H-17, the new residential sectors to be developed. The NHA is saying there was no such provision in the PC-1 for the construction of the corridor.

The issue has been taken up several times in the Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat, where members of the committee have supported the CDA’s stance.

CDA representatives told the committee that the NHA is constructing the metro bus track on the Kashmir Highway and is going to install a fence to separate the designated metro bus track from the highway. They argued that residents will face accessibility problems if the underpasses are not constructed. The NHA said it would be willing to do pile work for the underpasses so the CDA can construct them in the future but CDA officials said this was not the solution.

In a meeting of the standing committee last month, NHA officials said the metro track will be completed by the end of January while eight bus station and civic work will be finished by May this year.

Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2018