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October 21, 2017

Peshawar metro bus corridor to be most expensive


October 21, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The metro bus corridor in Peshawar the groundbreaking of which has been performed will be most expensive compared to three similar Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems built in Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Lahore and Multan, a comparative study shows.

However, the BRT is a good news for the Peshawariites, who will have a respectable transport system to use. It will be the first of its kind in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP). Contrary to similar projects in Punjab, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide 85.4pc or Rs41 billion funding of the Rs48 billion Peshawar  metro while the KP will contribute 14.6pc or Rs7 billion, according to KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak.

However, as per an official announcement made in July this year, the ADB approved a $335 million loan to help the KP government develop a sustainable urban transport system in Peshawar through the creation of its first integrated BRT corridor. In addition, the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and the European Investment Bank would support the project through $75 million each in co-financing.

All the Punjab metro bus projects were funded by the provincial gover-nment from its own resources. The Islamabad-Rawalpindi system was partially financed by the federal government.

While slamming such projects initiated by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif for months, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) accused the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) bigwigs of pocketing of hefty kickbacks by undertaking such high-cost ventures.

At one stage, PTI’s economic and financial wizards claimed that the Islamabad-Rawalpindi metro bus project can be built with a cost of just Rs3 billion, and charged that the PML-N was wasting national resources on flamboyant schemes.

The critics of the metro bus projects of Punjab continue to mockingly describe them as “Jangla bus”. PTI Chairman Imran Khan has also repeatedly done so. He was missing from the groundbreaking ceremony of the Peshawar metro corridor although he has been frequently attending such functions in KP. In one area, the Pervez Khattak government is poised to beat Shahbaz Sharif by resolving to complete the Peshawar BRT in only six months whereas none of the metro bus project of Punjab was concluded in such a short span of time. But still they were finalized in a record brief time.

The KP government took too long, more than three years, in starting the physical work on the BRT project. It has been kick-started when it has only eight months in office. Its launch obviously eyes the forthcoming general elections in which Khattak wants to showcase this mega project to the electorate as a huge achievement.

The Peshawar metro bus service will run over 26 kilometers. The Lahore system, the first of its kind in Pakistan, is spread over a 27 kilometers long route and has 29 stations. It was built at cost of Rs30 billion. It was inaugurated on February 10, 2013 and boasts of catering to 200,000 passengers every day. The Islamabad-Rawalpindi metro bus corridor was built at a cost of Rs45 billion. It was launched on June 4, 2015 and nearly 135,000 passengers travel by it daily.

The Multan Metro bus project cost Rs28.5 billion. Passengers are charged Rs20 each for one way travel irrespective of the distance they cover. All the three Punjab metro bus projects were designed by the local resources through NESPAK (National Engineering Services Limited) whereas the design of the Peshawar venture was prepared through a “Project Design Advance” (PDA) loan of $10 million from the ADB, which was given in November last, according to official documents.

As per the terms and conditions, the PDA comprised undertaking detailed engineering design for the BRT corridor, including specifications, drawings and detailed cost estimates; and advance procurement actions, including preparation of bidding documents for the ensuing project and supporting the bidding process until award of contract.

It has been stated that current public transport in Peshawar has low usage among women passengers. The Peshawar metro bus will establish universal access and safety features for females and children, as well as disabled, including proper lighting and monitoring, segregated areas, and staff trained to deal with harassment incidents.

Of the 4,000 jobs expected to be generated by the project, ten percent are likely to be for women. It is considered a third-generation BRT system, an innovation which allows BRT vehicles to travel along the corridor in the busiest parts of the city and to travel off-corridor in less congested areas.

This approach expands the system’s reach and capacity, lessens passenger transfers, and increases ridership and financial sustainability. While performing the groundbreaking, Khattak said that the BRT project would change the face of Peshawar and usher in a new era of development. The KP government would get 300 air-conditioned buses to run on the BRT corridor. This is the biggest project started by the PTI administration.