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September 16, 2019

Govt’s Metro Bus fare policy backfires

Top Story

September 16, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The government’s Metro Bus fare policy has backfired. Lahore and Rawalpindi/ Islamabad Metro Bus has faced a drastic decrease in number of passengers after the Punjab Metro Bus Authority has increase the bus fare from Rs20 to Rs30. The number of commuters on Lahore Metro Bus has decreased up to 20,000 per day after the new fare-policy; similarly, 10,000 to 20,000 passengers have stopped commuting on the Rawalpindi/Islamabad Metro Bus after the increase in ticket price, informed the official sources in Punjab Metro Bus Authority.

“We were expecting an annual increase of Rs800 million in the revenue of Punjab Mass Transit Authority (PMTA) by increasing Bus fare from Rs20 to Rs30 in the two metropolitan cities. However, it is quite surprising that the number of passenger has decreased up to 20,000 in Lahore and 10,000 to 20,000 in Rawalpindi-Islamabad on daily basis. It is very strange for us to know that the passenger is so sensitive about fare. The PMTA management is preparing the report on this unexpected outcome which will be presented to the authorities concerned in a week or two,” said the top official in PMTA.

Rawalpindi/ Islamabad Metro Bus is one of the major source of transportation for the residents of twin cities. On average 115,000 passengers use Metro Bus in the twin cities. However, after the increase in fare prices up to 20,000 commuters have stopped travelling through Metro Bus. “If a person has to travel from stop to stop in the twin city, he prefers Metro because there was a minor difference in Metro and other public transport fares. But due to increase in Metro Bus ticket price, majority of commuters have started using other means of transportation, commented the PMTA official.

No subsidy from the Federal Govt: The PMTA official further informed that Metro Bus Authority receives Rs2.2 billion subsidy from the Punjab government for its Lahore operations and Rs1.9 billion for its Rawalpindi/Islamabad operations. The federal government shares half of the subsidy for Rawalpindi/Islamabad operations. However, the present federal government has given not a single penny for the Metro Bus subsidy.

Last time, the Metro Bus Authority received subsidy from the federal government was in 2017-18 under Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s regime. The federal government paid Rs1.4 billion to the Punjab Mass Transit Authority since the Rawalpindi Metro Bus has commenced its operations. Rs03 billion dues are outstanding against the federal government. The authority has requested for the subsidy several times but the government has paid nothing yet, informed the official.

Poor condition of Metro Bus routes

The Rawalpindi/Islamabad Metro Bus operation is facing difficulties as majority of the escalators and lifts installed in bus stations are not functional. They require at least Rs200 million for annual maintenance. Similarly, bus routes need to be repaired on regular basis, but due to lack of funding the PMTA is facing problems, informed the official.

The Punjab Mass Transit Authority has recently finalised four contracts for the repairing of Rawalpindi Islamabad Metro Bus routes. However, the overhauling of escalators needs more time due to some technical and financial issues, the official said.

New Islamabad Airport Metro Bus Project

The previous government had launched new route linking Islamabad city with the New Islamabad Metro Bus. The project was almost complete; however, after the PTI-led government came into power the development work on this project was stopped.

When asked about the non-completion of Metro Bus project linking Islamabad with the New Islamabad Airport, the official informed that the project was being carried out by National High Way Authority and Punjab Mass Transit Authority has nothing to do with this project. The federal government was supposed to carry out this project.

When contacted, Managing Director Punjab Mass Transit Authority, Sibtain Fazal Halim said he doesn’t want to talk to this scribe and hung up the call.

The News then contacted Manager Operations, Rawalpindi/Islamabad Metro Bus, Shumaila Mohsin said it is true that the ratio of passenger decreased after the surge in fare prices. On average 10,000 passengers per day have stopped using Rawalpindi/Islamabad Metro Bus after the new fare-policy. However, this decrease has created no impact on the revenues.

She said the construction and maintenance work has been initiated on almost entire route which will be completed soon. Out of 83 escalators, 57 are functional and the remaining will be repaired soon. The spare parts of escalators are not easily available in Pakistan and they have to be imported from any other country. This is one of the reason in delay of escalators maintenance, she said.