Damning report of public money waste on Peshawar BRT

Updated April 03, 2019

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PESHAWAR: Work continues on the main station of the Bus Rapid Transit project in the Chamkani area on Tuesday.—Shahbaz Butt
PESHAWAR: Work continues on the main station of the Bus Rapid Transit project in the Chamkani area on Tuesday.—Shahbaz Butt

PESHAWAR: “Havoc has been played with the public money through faulty planning & designing, negligence in execution of work, and poor management of the project,” a 27-page official report on the multi-billion rupees Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Peshawar said.

The report compiled by the Provincial Inspection Team (PIT) on the orders of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister also points to the “shadiness of the affairs at play in the project” causing loss to the public exchequer as “quantities of the items having exorbitant quoted rates have been increased while those having zero rates have been deleted”.

Read:KP CM irked by Peshawar traffic mess, slow work on BRT

The inspection team in its report, submitted to the government on Jan 30, recommended fixing of responsibility for faulty design and execution of work causing loss to the government. Dawn has a copy of the report.

Chief Minister Mahmood Khan had publicly announced holding an inquiry into the delay and problems caused on account of the BRT, but officials say no formal orders have been issued thus far to fix responsibility for the faulty design and execution of work.

But on Tuesday, the government removed the provincial transport secretary and director general of the Peshawar Development Authority, the head of the BRT executing agency.

KP inspection team questions rationale behind launching multi-billion project

KP Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai said his government was looking into the inspection team’s report. “We are examining the report and we shall address all the issues and recommendations.”

“We are cognizant of the problems being faced by the people. Chief Minister Mahmood Khan wants to see the project completed as soon as possible,” Mr Yousafzai said in his comments to Dawn.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has already submitted its preliminary findings on the Rs67.8 billion mega mass transit system funded by the Asian Development Bank, but the report has been sealed by the Peshawar High Court (PHC), pending completion of the project to avoid further delays in a project that has seen many inauguration dates changed much to the embarrassment of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

Construction work on the BRT had commenced in October 2017 and was slated to complete within six months, close to the general elections. The project, however, faced delays, prompting the PHC to order NAB in July last year to look into what it called a “shady and shaky” project.

The project was due to be inaugurated again on March 23 this year, but it was put off again due to incomplete work, non-availability of buses and concerns over traffic bottlenecks it has caused.

Read:Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit project likely to miss March 23 deadline too

Officials say that the PTI leadership at the highest level has been shaken and embarrassed by not just the delays but also the problems the project has caused in its wake and efforts are now being made to mitigate and resolve them before it could be formally inaugurated.

The officials say that 11 choking points have been identified along the BRT route and a committee has been formed to resolve the issues ahead of its inauguration.

Questioning the rationale behind launching the BRT, the provincial inspection team noted that before the launch of the mass transit system, traffic congestion problem had been resolved to a great extent by the government by executing a project regarding widening, construction of dedicated U-turns, beautification, installation of LED lights on roads and general development.

“Immediately after completion of the said project, the BRT project was launched for the same location/corridor,” the report noted. “One fails to understand that widening/beautification project and BRT project overlapped each other and during the execution of the BRT project, whole of the work done under the earlier project was uprooted.”

“Planning and approval of both the projects had been in process at the same time and even executing agency for both the projects was the same. Logic behind such actions causing blatant waste of public money needs accountability and responsibility fixation,” the report said.

The inspection team went on to say that after the completion of the main corridor and blacktopping of roads meant for mixed traffic, it was expected that it would ease out traffic problems compared to the pre-BRT condition in Peshawar.

“But on the contrary, traffic congestion has increased at places where BRT corridor is At-Grid specifically at the location of BRT stations,” it noted.

“Construction of At-Grid BRT followed by At-Grid bus stations were wrong decisions which had resulted into the present catastrophic situation of the traffic.”

Identifying the problems, the inspection team noted that pre-BRT 20.5 meter wide carriageway & service road (excluding the 1.50 meter center-median) on one side for mixed traffic had now been reduced to only 9.60 meters after completion of the BRT bus station, which was 53.17 per cent less than the pre-BRT available space, which it warned, was insufficient to cope with growing traffic volume.

Further aggravating the problem, it said, the non-uniform carriageway before and after the bus stations had created a funnel-like situation creating bottlenecks and adding pressure on reduced carriageway for mixed traffic.

The report highlighted design flaws in Reach-II of the elevated BRT bus stations for which elevator, escalator and staircases were to be installed while the passengers would have to cross the mixed traffic At-Grid at seven points causing frequent traffic disruptions.

In the cantonment area, it pointed out, the elevated bus stations were just at arm’s length from the nearby residential and commercial buildings violating privacy while no provisions had been made for the installation of louvers and sound barriers.

Read:Peshawar BRT

The report referred to problems all along the Reach-I, Reach-II and Reach-III. Though not contained in the report, the situation is more troublesome on the GT Road just opposite the historic Qila Bala Hisar, where the BRT has eaten away much of the historic Jinnah Park, the venue of 1947 referendum but has virtually cut it the southern part of the GT Road from the northern part, requiring traffic to take long detours to reach their destination.

At Reach-I, it said, some of the BRT stations had been underground approaches, while some had elevated approaches. “Passengers will always have to calculate whether (they have) to go up or down to approach the bus stations.”

Furthermore, the report said, there were no pedestrian crossings other than those at the bus stations in Reach-I and Reach-III located 800 meters apart.

It pointed out that the design was changed several times at various locations, citing the existence of drain during excavations. Not only was the entire lane strip pavement was changed to full length concrete rigid pavement but were payments were made against the already work done and dismantled.

Some government officials blame the foreign consultant hired for approximately Rs1.5 billion for the flawed design and frequent changes to the concept design.

More shocking however, was “unrealistic completion period of six months”, according to the report. The previous PTI government paid 25pc extra as a reward to the contractor to complete the project within the stipulated timeframe. The contractor not only pocketed the 25pc extra money but also failed to complete the project even after one year.

Some officials warn that the considerable delay in the completion of the project could prompt the contractor to invoke price adjustment (escalation) clause that may cost the provincial government dearly.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2019