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January 9, 2019

Govt to rationalise metro bus subsidy


January 9, 2019

LAHORE: The Punjab government is considering to rationalise the subsidy of transport sector as the Punjab Mass Transit Authority (PMTA) is subsidising 70 percent on metro buses routes and 90 percent on feeder buses routes while per passenger subsidy on Lahore and Multan metro buses is Rs128 and feeder routes is Rs203 per passenger which is the highest subsidy passed by the government in any sector.

Currently, the government has been paying 65 percent subsidy on the operation of three metro buses routes and its feeder routes while PMTA has yet to make the project self-sustainable while no self revenue generation projects were identified and potential of metro bus stations remained unutilised.

The authority has proposed Rs10 increase in fare on metro bus routes of Lahore, Multan, Islamabad-Rawalpindi while the government asked the authority to provide its financial structure before making any increase in fares which will adversely affect the users and politically government as well. However, the authority showed reluctance to share its financial structure which annoyed Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht who chaired a review meeting of PMTA here Tuesday.

‘Whenever the finance department asked the PMTA to provide its financial structure to study the subsidy amount utilisation, the PMTA always talk about its operational structure instead of providing the information sought’, he questioned. He asked the PMTA to provide the zone-wise data about the metro bus routes passengers and other options of rather to make flat increase of Rs10 per trip fare. The zoning data about passengers could be more helpful in making better decisions instead of making flat increase as the data analytics can explain that fare should be increased on flat Rs10 per trip or stop to stop basis, or zone to zone basis.

The minister asked the PMTA to submit a proposal of how the infrastructure of the metro stations, metro and feeder buses could be utilised for advertisement purposes. ‘The real potential of the metro buses and stations were unleashed while the PMTA is only depending on the government subsidy instead of making the project self-sustainable and reducing the burden from the government exchequer’, the minister observed.

He asked the PMTA to present the services contractors’ details and suggestions to change the contractors for improvement in the services in three cities as government was paying whopping amount of subsidy on only three cities transport sector. However, PMTA Managing Director Sibtain Fazal Halim recommended the minister for not changing contractors for metro buses as they were providing with old rates negotiated in 2013 while new contractors will charge higher market based rates in case of renegotiations and advertising for hiring the services of the new contractors. But the finance minister believed that the government cannot keep the private sector away and there was need to open up and call the new investors.

The finance department officials pointed out that number of feeder buses were plying empty on the roads while the government was paying huge subsidy to them. The PMTA MD Sibtain Fazal Halim admitted that on some routes, besides feeder buses, other buses and motorcycle rickshaws were also operating. The passengers use alternate available transport facilities. Especially, in Multan metro bus route, feeder buses were plying empty on roads as previously plying buses on the route were still operational, he said. Additionally, in Lahore too, in some feeder routes buses were not taking full load and plying with semi capacity.

The minister asked to close those routes and shift existing plying buses to new areas to benefit the public or close the feeder buses routes and start new routes with those buses for judicious use of the resources.

The minister stressed the need of engaging the private sector in the metro buses operation to reduce the subsidy load from government and utilisation of save subsidy amount on other needed sectors.

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