PESHAWAR: Uncertainty is looming large over the launch of the Bus Rapid Transit service in the provincial capital despite several announcements by the previous and current Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf governments about the completion of the multi-billion rupees urban transport facility.
Briefing media about the project here on Tuesday, minister for local government Shahram Tarakai said the soft launching of the project was expected on March 23.
He said major work on the bus project, including stations, was likely to be completed in the second week of February.
The minister earlier chaired a meeting to discuss progress on the project.
“I will not fix date for the completion of the project but we are making efforts to hold soft launch of the bus service on March 23,” he said, adding that he was not in a position to set a deadline for the complete operation of the BRT.
LG minister says no deadline for project completion, soft launch likely on March 23
He was flanked by local government secretary Zahir Shah, Peshawar Development Authority director general Israrul Haq and other officials concerned.
The groundbreaking ceremony of the BRT project was held in Oct 2017.
The government had announced that the project would be completed within six months. However, rapid changes to design delayed the project forcing the government to change the deadline several times.
Apart from delay, financial scams also marred the project. The Peshawar High Court had ordered the National Accountability Bureau to probe its affairs. However, the Supreme Court suspended the high court’s order and stopped NAB from further investigations into the project.
The project’s cost has escalated from Rs47 billion to Rs66 billion with the government attributing it to design changes. The government had got loan from the Asian Development Bank for the initiative.
Minister Shahram said the design changes and delay in mega projects like BRT was natural.
He said such projects took at least two and a half years to complete.
The minister said the government was trying its best to complete the project as soon as possible.
He said the government might not give subsidy to commuters but the Trans Peshawar Company would make final decision about it.
The company will operate the BRT.
A prototype, 12-meter long bus for the BRT had reached Peshawar in May 2018. It has been parked in Hayatabad Town.
The minister said a fleet of 20 buses would probably reach Peshawar from China in the second week of Feb.
He said 220 buses would be imported for the BRT.
The minister said 27 of the total 31 bus stations were likely to be completed by mid February.
He said Rs1 billion had been allocated for payment to the owners of buses currently running from the general bus stand to Hayatabad and Karkhano Market.
The minister said a total of 650 buses would be scrapped after the launch of the BRT service, while owners would get compensation for starting alternate businesses.
About the traffic mess along the BRT route, he said all bottlenecks on both sides of the track would be removed within a month.
The minister said residents had badly suffered due to the bus project and therefore, traffic-related issues would be resolved on a priority basis.
He said major bottlenecks in Hashtnagri and Balahisar Fort areas would be removed in the first week of Feb to facilitate movement of traffic and pedestrians.
The minister said 800 traffic wardens performed duty along the BRT route to streamline traffic.
Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2019