Shortage of crossings at Peshawar BRT pushes pedestrians to scale grills

Updated November 18, 2019

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A man climbs over the BRT fence. — Dawn
A man climbs over the BRT fence. — Dawn

PESHAWAR: For determined pedestrians unwilling to use the overhead bridges built on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) track, the 1.84-metre high iron grill having spikes is no deterrence even if it means scaling it to cross the road.

People do not follow rules of road crossing, say traffic experts, but pedestrians alone cannot be blamed for ignoring road safety owing to flaws in the design of the Rs66.43 billion BRT project. The design of the grill at Reach-1 and Reach-3 also happens to be more conducive for pedestrians to scale it than to take a long detour or walk the distance to the nearest overhead bridges.

Launched in October 2017, the Asian Development Bank had initially committed to give $400 million loan for the project and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s share of the bill was 15 per cent. The ADB backed out of its initial commitment and released only $335 million for the project. Later, the French Development Agency gave €130 million loan and changes were made in PC-1 of the project, according to the official documents.

Officials overseeing the multi-billion rupees BRT project said that the ADB, the lending agency, had recommended construction of anti-climb and anti-cutting iron grills on both sides of the track. They said the original design was dropped and another design was approved for Reach-1 and Reach-3.

Officials say original fence design for Reach-1 and 3 has been changed

“It was a political decision to drop anti-cutting and anti-climbing grills and directives were issued to change the design,” said one official who declined to explain motives behind changing the original design. He said the existing design of the grill installed at two Reaches was very risky for the pedestrians who scaled the fence instead of using overhead bridges.

A civil engineer said that pedestrians were being forced to scale about two metres high iron grill because road crossings at the Jamrud Road, Grand Trunk Road and other locations on the BRT lie at a fair distance from each other.

“Unavailability of crossings is forcing pedestrians to scale the grill to avoid inconvenience,” he said.

Contractors have erected anti-climb and anti-cutting grills only at bus stations at Reach-2, the elevated portion of BRT track. The grill is also very easy to cut. Junkies and scavengers have been easily cutting the grills which had forced contractors to repair it.

Official documents show that total length of the iron grill along the track was 15,844 metres (around 16 kilometres). Total cost of the iron grill is Rs380.61 million at the rate of Rs283 per kilogramme, which makes it a rather expensive undertaking if the grill is not serving its purpose.

In addition, the Peshawar Development Authority, the project executing agency, has paid Rs342.04 million to contractors.

The grills for 27 kilometres long track of BRT has been painted black. Sources said that ADB was not happy with the changes in design of the iron grills and recommended a few steps for beautification of the grill.

Officials said that green plants would be grown to cover the iron grill and sharp pointed ends were ensured to prevent pedestrians from climbing the grills. Spokesman for the PDA Humair Afridi, when approached for comments, said that construction of anti-cutting and anti-climbing grill was a proposal of the ADB.

“That was a proposal and not a decision that was why the design was changed,” he argued, adding that measures were being adopted to deter pedestrians from scaling the grill and for its beautification.

According to the revised PC-1, the project was to be completed by June 2019. Despite delays the government has yet to fix date for the completion and operation of the bus service. Civil works and IT-related work are still underway. Completion period of the project was six months, according the original plan.

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2019