PESHAWAR: The ruling PTI’s Achilles heel, the Bus Rapid Transit, known by its acronym BRT, will finally be launched tomorrow (Thursday).
“Prime Minister Imran Khan will inaugurate the third generation mass transit system at around 3pm on Thursday,” a seemingly relieved Chief Minister Mahmood Khan announced here on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters at the Chief Minister’s House, Mr Mahmood said the initial deadline set by his predecessor, Pervez Khattak, was a mistake.
He said Mr Khattak launched the project for the benefit of the people of the provincial capital.
The chief minister said his two years at the helm were tough as there was so much criticism of the project.
CM says project deadline set by his predecessor was a mistake
“For me, it was a situation like caught between a rock and a hard place,” he said.
Mr Mahmood said the government would gradually meet all those things, which the project lacked.
He praised the BRT managers over efforts for the project’s launch.
“All of them worked very hard to make the project’s timely inauguration a reality,” he said.
Fayyaz Khan, the chief executive officer of the government-owned TransPeshawar company, which has been set up to operate the project, highlighted the features of the initiative.
He said BRT was a third generation project, which had a 27 kilometers long main corridor from Chamkani to Karakhano crossing, and five off-corridor routes connecting different parts of the city to the main corridor.
“The Kohat Adda-Shah Alam on Charsadda road off the corridor link will be 18 kilometers long, while the length of the Chamkani-Pishtakha Chowk section is 19 kilometers. The three other routes will connect different parts of Hayatabad and Karkhano crossing with each other,” he said.
Mr Fayyaz said 30 BRT stations had been set up along 27 kilometers long BRT corridor at a distance of 900 meters.
He said three depots and staging facility were under construction.
The TransPeshawar CEO said the company had a fleet of 200 diesel hybrid air-conditioned buses, which would cover 59 kilometers of the main and off-corridor routes.
He said the project also had a bicycle sharing system and 360 buses had been purchased for the purpose.
Mr Fayyaz said the BRT would also have an express service, which would make stops at only seven stations of the main corridor, while the regular bus service would be available at all stations.
He said the commuters would have to pay Rs10 per five kilometers, while the fare would go up by Rs5 for every five kilometers.
“A ride from Chamkani to Karakhano crossing will cost a commuter Rs35,” he said.
About the existing public transport, the TransPeshawar chief said the company had registered 618 vehicles and of them, 418 had been compensated.
He said the company had distributed 100,00 Zu BRT cards free of charge among the residents.Work on the bus project was launched in Oct 2017 with the then chief minister, Pervez Khattak, setting six months deadline for its completion at a cost of Rs49 billion.
However, the frequent design changes and retrofitting not only caused the project to miss the first deadline but it also increased the project cost by Rs17 billion to a staggering Rs66.43 billion.
Thereafter, the project managers changed the launch dates from May 20 to June 30 to Dec 31 in 2018 to March 23, 2019, to June 2020. However, the project wasn’t launched due to design and other issues.
In the meanwhile, 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.
In Dec 2019, the Peshawar High Court ordered the Federal Investigation Agency to investigate that alleged corruption.
A five-member FIA team formed in line with the court’s judgement had submitted its report to the court at the end of Jan. However, the apex court stopped the probe in Feb.
Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2020