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A signboard directs commuters to the old airport. — White Star
A signboard directs commuters to the old airport. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: Even though the Islamabad International Airport (IIA) opened nearly a month ago, the roads signs installed across Rawalpindi and Islamabad are still leading commuters to the old Benazir Bhutto International Airport.

Signs to the old airport remain in place at Zero Point, the Peshawar Mor intersection, Rawat, Koral Chowk, Kutchery Chowk and the Faizabad intersection.

“If a person travelling from Jhelum, Kashmir or Lahore follows the existing signboards they will return to the G.T Road from Kutchery Chowk,” said Kashmir resident Jibran Ali.

“The misleading signboards could get foreigners and locals who live in far-flung areas in trouble,” said a CDA official who asked not to be named.

Khalil Ahmed, who lives in the capital, said the CDA was responsible for replacing old signboards with new ones when the IIA was inaugurated.

“The government constructed the new airport at such a high cost, but the civic agencies of both cities have failed to replace the signboards,” Mr Ahmed said, calling the situation “the height of negligence”.

A senior CDA officer, who asked not to be named, said the signboards point in the right direction in five locations.

“We changed the directions of five boards – particularly on Kashmir Highway, which includes on Zero Point and in G-9 and G-10,” he said, adding that the removal of old signboards from various roads, including the Expressway, is ongoing.

However, he said, signboards on gantries will be removed after a new tender is floated, which is a time-taking process. However an official from the road directorate said it was worthless to change the direction of the five boards.

When asked why the signs could not be painted or taped over to end the confusion, he said that would require closing off the road and would be difficult to accomplish. He said it would be better to handle the situation in one go once the tender procedure is completed.

“There are a large number of boards on various roads, and if five of them have been changed that is worthless, as the remaining large number of road signs are creating confusion.”

CDA spokesperson Malik Saleem could not be reached for comment.

Metro bus service to new airport

Since the metro bus track from Peshawar Mor to IIA has not been completed, there is no public bus service to facilitate citizens travelling to the new airport.

The airport, which cost Rs105bn to complete, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Shahiq Khaqan Abbasi earlier this month.

The government decided to inaugurate IIA before the metro bus track from Peshawar Mor to the airport – which is 20km from Zero Point and 25km from Saddar – was completed.

The Rs16bn 26.5km track is being executed by the National Highway Authority, which says it will be completed next month.

One important question is who will run the bus service after the track is completed.

The current operator of the Rawalpindi-Islamabad service, the Punjab Mass Transit Authority, has already expressed its inability to do so.

The CDA has said it is not its mandate to run the service, as that would fall under the Islamabad Capital Territory Transport Authority. The transport authority said its job is to regulate transport services, not run its own.

Sources said that a couple of weeks ago, the prime minister chaired a meeting to decide who would operate the bus service. They said CDA officials at the meeting argued it would be difficult for the authority, while NHA officials told Mr Abbasi regulating a bus service would not be feasible for them.

It was proposed that this task be handed over to the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad or the ICT Transport Authority, they said, but the meeting could not reach a final decision.

Islamabad Chief Commissioner Aftab Akbar Durrani, who attended the meeting, said various proposals are being discussed for the running of the service.Chief Metropolitan Officer Syed Najaf Iqbal, who also attended the meeting, said it did discuss having the MCI run the service, but there is the issue of subsidy, as it would be difficult for the new organisation to bear a huge subsidy for the service.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2018