Interior ministry, Punjab govt to run Islamabad’s metro bus service

Updated December 03, 2019

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The Ministry of Interior and Punjab government have agreed to jointly run Islamabad Metro Bus Project (IMBP) which has become an example of government’s negligence even though 90 per cent work is complete. — AFP/File
The Ministry of Interior and Punjab government have agreed to jointly run Islamabad Metro Bus Project (IMBP) which has become an example of government’s negligence even though 90 per cent work is complete. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Interior and Punjab government have agreed to jointly run Islamabad Metro Bus Project (IMBP) which has become an example of government’s negligence even though 90 per cent work is complete.

However, the Ministry of Finance and the National Highway Authority (NHA) on Monday passed the buck to each other over inordinate delay in the completion of the project.

An amount of Rs4 billion is required to complete the infrastructure work.

After a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Communication, a senior NHA official told Dawn that the Capital Development Authority (under the interior ministry) and the Punjab Mass Transport Authority (PMTA) of Punjab government had agreed to run the metro bus service once it was completed and the buses were purchased.

He agreed that earlier both the CDA and PMTA had refused to run the metro buses. The NHA as well as the CDA had also made an excuse that they did not have the experience to run the metro service.

Finance ministry, NHA pass buck on to each other over delay in completion of project

Earlier, authorities concerned were quite worried how the service would be run as 90pc work on the project had been completed.

During the standing committee meeting, an official from the NHA complained that the finance ministry was delaying the release of payments allocated for the project under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP).

“We received the allocation for the first quarter after a three-month delay and not a single penny for the second quarters,” a member of the NHA told the meeting.

The meeting chaired by Senator Hidayatullah was informed that the 25-km-long metro bus corridor from Peshawar Mor to Islamabad International Airport (IIA) had been delayed by six months.

Initially, a deadline of Dec 2017 was set by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif who launched the project in June 2017.

The NHA official said though the implementable completion time was June 2018, it was further delayed and no new completion date was fixed.

However, a senior official of the NHA told Dawn that the NHA could fully complete the infrastructure [track and bus stations] in four months provided the government released the required funds.

The project has four sections and as a result of nonpayment of dues, the contractors of the four sections have stopped work and their sub-contractors and labours left the site.

The estimated/project cost of the track was over Rs18 billion but it is believed that it will be completed at Rs14 billion. The project has eight stations - seven on Kashmir Highway and one at the airport.

On the other hand, officials of the finance ministry told the meeting that not a single case of payment release to the NHA was pending as all such files had been approved and forwarded.

“On the instruction of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the finance ministry has already expedited the process of payment to the ministries for early completion of ongoing projects,” an official of the ministry said.

Member standing committee Senator Ahmed Khan said one of the reasons behind the delay in the project was the contractors who had already completed 90pc of work and stopped work due to non-payment of dues.

He said as there was no escalation clause in the project, the contractors were compelled to meet the price of delay and escalated cost of the construction material.

He demanded the NHA review terms of its contract to provide some relief to the contractors so that they could resume the stalled work.

“Since the start of the project, the prices of steel and cement have increased by 50pc,” he added.

After the meeting, when NHA Chairman Sikandar Qayyum was asked how much time was required to complete the project, he said: “What you have listened in the meeting was enough.”

It has been learnt that so far no plan has been made to purchase buses for the metro service and what amount of subsidy the government will bear to run the service.

After the new airport was made operational, the volume of traffic on Kashmir Highway increased manifold, making it imperative to launch the metro bus service.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2019