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March 09,2018

NHA quietly changes Metro corridor design

Usman Manzoor

ISLAMABAD: As the inauguration of the New Islamabad International Airport is getting near, the authorities are deliberating to massively change the design of Rs18 billion metro bus corridor from the Peshawar Morr to the new airport without the PM’s approval, The News has learnt reliably.

This is being done when billions of rupees have already been spent on constructing the separate corridor for the metro bus on the 25.6-km-long route on the Kashmir Highway. Even jersey barriers especially erected to separate motorists’ road from the metro bus lanes have been demolished between N-5 (GT Road) and motorway to accomodate the changed design. Thus, the dedicated metro bus corridor has been merged with the main highway after removing the dividers.

The spokesman for the National Highway Authority (NHA), the sponsoring authority of the project, while replying to the questions asked by this correspondent, denied any changes being made in the design of the metro bus project. Kashif Zaman, the NHA spokesman said the metro bus will ply to the new airport and as of now, there has not been any alteration done in the original design. He mentioned that the portion of the metro bus corridor between the motorway interchange and new airport has been completed by the NHA.

However, the reality on the ground is different. “The prime minister’s office is not aware of any change in the design,” a senior official said. All the approvals including the PC-1 were accorded by the Planning Commission and all the other departments have been ignored. No changes have been made in them while starting the alteration in the original design.

The Rs18 billion project, launched in May last, which was to be completed in August 2017, is already seven months behind the schedule. It was conceived to cater to a large rush of commuters to and from the new airport, but the change in its design will dispense with its intended purpose.

According to the changed plan, the metro bus will not run up to the new airport, the sources said. Now, one proposal is that the metro bus will ply between Peshawar Morr and N-5 only. This distance is nearly ten kilometers, less than half of the actual 25.6 kilometers route. Then, the feeder buses will operate to take the passengers and other commuters to or bring them from the airport to the metro station at the GT Road.

Another plan being deliberated is that the metro bus would operate between Peshawar Morr and the motorway toll plaza. From there, the feeder buses will be used till the airport. Both the proposals appear implausible because the passengers going to or coming from the airport will have to drag their luggage more than once from one travel facility to another to reach their destinations.

It seems that those who have extraordinarily modified the design are unaware of the flocks of passengers, their relatives and friends using the new airport, which will be fully functional in mid-April after its inauguration by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

In the prevailing situation when the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is exceedingly active, the enormous change in the design without the approval of the prime minister or other departments, which had sanctioned it, would provoke investigation by the anti-graft agency and create troubles for its sponsors.

The actual objective of the metro project will certainly die down if the bus service does not operate on its full route, providing the passengers and others a swift travel facility. Ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif had envisaged and inaugurated the project after the people approved the metro bus service in Islamabad/Rawalpindi, Lahore and Multan. Following his ouster on July 28 last, work on it slowed down tremendously. The completion of the airport has also met the same fate. As per the original plan, the project included construction of four interchanges, 14 stopovers, 9 bus stations, 12 bridges and 11 underpasses.


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