Peshawar bus project cost goes up to Rs70.7 billion

Updated February 21, 2020

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The cost of the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit project has gone up by another Rs4.2 billion to touch the Rs70.7 billion mark as the relevant authorities have decided to revise PC-I for the second time in around 15 months. — Abdul Majeed Goraya/File
The cost of the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit project has gone up by another Rs4.2 billion to touch the Rs70.7 billion mark as the relevant authorities have decided to revise PC-I for the second time in around 15 months. — Abdul Majeed Goraya/File

PESHAWAR: The cost of the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit project has gone up by another Rs4.2 billion to touch the Rs70.7 billion mark as the relevant authorities have decided to revise PC-I for the second time in around 15 months.

The documents available with Dawn show that the decision to this effect was made during a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Mahmood Khan here on Feb 17.

The meeting was attended by finance minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra, additional chief secretary Shakeel Qadir Khan, principal secretary to the chief minister Shahab Ali Shah, Peshawar Development Authority director general Syed Zafar Ali Shah and other relevant officials.

Following the meeting, project supervisory consultants’ team leader Teague MacReen submitted the estimated additional funds requirement of Rs4.2 billion to the director general of the PDA, which is the executing agency of the much-delayed initiative.

Authorities decide to revise PC-I for second time in 15 months

“The engineer hereby submits the estimate of the additional funds required to complete the Peshawar BRT project in the tune of Rs4,289 million, which represents 6.45 per cent of the approved PC-I,” the letter noted.

On Feb 18, the PDA director general wrote to the secretary of the transport and mass transit department asking him to submit a draft summary for additional funds to the chief minister’s office for approval.

The breakdown of the proposed additional costs shows that the cost of Reach I from Chamkani to Firdous Chowk has jumped up by Rs981 million, while the cost of Reach III, which runs from Gora Qabristan to Karkhano Market on the western edge of the city, has gone up by Rs1.5 billion.

Also, the cost of bus depots, park and ride and TransPeshawar office has ballooned by Rs1.4 billion.

The consultant supervision cost has jumped up by another Rs1.3 billion, while Rs30 million will go to the Peshawar Electric Supply Company for utilities relocation, Rs50 million for land acquisition for Amn Chowk depots, Rs100 million for PDA project implementation unit, and Rs110 million for social resettlement cost.

However, officials in the PDA and transport, planning and development departments were tightlipped about the reasons for cost escalations.

In Aug last year, the PDA had informed the provincial government that as the rupee depreciated, funds it was receiving from the donor, Asian Development Bank, had gone up by Rs3 billion.

The then additional chief secretary had expressed concerns about the cost escalation, saying it was declared at every approving forum, including Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec), that neither the PC-I would be revised nor would the time for the project’s completion be extended.

However, the PDA insisted that the cost escalation was taking place due to Pakistani rupee’s devaluation and that no additional funding would be required.

It was not immediately clear whether the revision of PC-I, which has to go through several forums, including provincial development working party, central development working party and Ecnec, would affect the completion of the much-delayed project.

The project managers had earlier this year signed a settlement agreement with contractors under which the latter had to complete work on the project by the end of April.

PDA director general Syed Zafar Ali Shah didn’t respond to mobile phone calls and a text message of this correspondent.

The Ecnec had had approved the project’s revised cost of Rs66.43 billion on Nov 14, 2018, and stipulated the June 2019 to be project completion month, while the provincial government had requested the forum to allow the revision of cost for the soft opening of the project then scheduled for March last year.

The project, which was launched in Oct 2017, was initially to be completed in April 2018. However, the first deadline was missed. Thereafter, the project managers kept changing the launch dates from May 20 to June 30 to Dec 31 in 2018 and March 23, 2019, while the project cost jumped to Rs66.43 billion from the initial Rs49 billion due to the frequent retrofitting.

A National Accountability Bureau probe ordered by the Peshawar High Court into the alleged corruption in BRT project was stopped in Sept 2018 by a Supreme Court bench headed by the then chief justice, Saqib Nisar.

The court also stopped the Federal Investigation Agency from probing the project at the start of the current month.

A five-member FIA team formed in line with the high court’s judgement had submitted its report to the court at the end of last month.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2020