Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated the long-awaited Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project today (Thursday).
Addressing the inaugural ceremony, the premier said that this was "the best metro bus project in the country".
This will have an impact in Peshawar cause the city has one main artery that stretches from GT Road to Hayatabad, which chokes when under pressure, resulting in people siting in traffic for hours which causes pollution and petrol wastage, he said.
He maintained that the main artery was 27 kilometres long while the feeder routes were 60km. "This means that all of city will be connected," he said, adding that it was a modern transport system covering Peshawar in its entirety.
The premier also admitted to having "reservations" about the project. "I want to say I had reservations about the project.
"Today, I want to pay tribute to Pervez Khattak because he always said that you will realise the importance of this project once it is completed. So all I want to say is that Pervez Khattak was right and we turned out to be wrong."
The premier also said that the ticket prices for the Peshawar BRT were "just right". "Our programmes should give priority to improving the lives of the common man. Everyone can afford the ticket which ranges from Rs10 to Rs50."
There are also tickets for students to make travelling easier for them and hospitals have been connected so people will no longer face difficulties in this regard, he said.
He added that the project will eventually increase the per capita income in Peshawar and bring prosperity. "When you have a good transport system, it brings change."
The project, built at a cost of Rs70 billion, is a 27.5 kilometre-long corridor track with 31 stations and seven feeder routes stretching 62km with 146 stops to facilitate thousands of passengers every day, according to Radio Pakistan.
Shortly after the inauguration, the premier, who was accompanied by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan and other government officials, was given a briefing on the functioning of the project.
On Wednesday, the KP CM had said the initial deadline set by Khattak, who is also the former chief minister, was a mistake. However, he had launched the project to benefit the people of the provincial capital, he had said. He had added that the government would gradually meet all those things which the project lacked.
Earlier today, the premier also launched the Ehsaas Nashonuma Programme in Khyber district to prevent stunted growth in children.
Footage aired on TV showed the premier planting a sapling and giving polio drops to a young child, before being given a briefing by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Sania Nishtar.
According to Radio Pakistan, Rs8.52 billion have been allocated for the programme under which deserving families will be provided nutritious food and a quarterly stipend. In the first phase, 33 centres will be established in nine districts of the country all of which will be established by the end of the month, the report said.
Marred by controversy
Work on the bus project was launched in October 2017 with the then chief minister, Pervez Khattak, and a deadline of six months for its completion at a cost of Rs49 billion.
However, frequent design changes and retrofitting caused the project to miss the first deadline and also increased its cost by Rs17 billion to a staggering Rs66.43 billion.
Thereafter, the project managers changed the launch dates multiple times. However, the project was still not launched due to a myriad of issues.
Meanwhile, a National Accountability Bureau probe ordered by the Peshawar High Court (PHC) into alleged corruption in the BRT project was stopped in September 2018 by a Supreme Court bench headed by former chief justice Saqib Nisar.
In December 2019, the high court ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to investigate the 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 January. However, the apex court stopped the probe in February.