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January 12, 2020

Peshawar BRT

Opinion

January 12, 2020

Peshawar’s Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) will be one of the most expensive BRT ever built – once it is completed. Here’s the cost comparison on a per kilometer basis: Ahmedabad $2.4 million; Dalian (China) $2.6 million; Changzhou (China) $4 million; Guangzhou (China) $4.4 million; Beijing $4.8 million; Bogota $5.3 million; Paris $7 million; and Istanbul $8.8 million.

Before we built the one in Lahore, Istanbul’s was the world’s most expensive. The cost of Lahore Metro came in at $11 million per kilometre. Islamabad Metro then took the first prize at $20 million per kilometer.

Lo and behold, the Peshawar BRT – at $22 million per kilometre – will be the most expensive on the face of the planet. According to the Peshawar High Court (PHC), “The total cost for the 27.37 kms road project is estimated at Rs66.437 billion. This translates into approximately Rs2.427 billion cost per kilometre which is exorbitantly high.” The PHC adds: “The project has grossly been mishandled and mismanaged from inception by the provincial government officials and thus far three project directors have been replaced.”

Intriguingly, “due to improper planning this short-term project was revised with 35 percent increase in costs and some of its components abnormally increased by 237 percent (package-6), 200 percent (package-9) and 147 percent (package 4). This is testimony of poor planning for the project by the consulting firm with provincial government at the receiving end.”

Imagine; the budget for India’s mission to Mars was $74 million and the Peshawar BRT is going to cost over $600 million. For the record, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s budget for health and education stands at Rs11 billion and Rs18 billion, respectively. Yes, the first PC-1 in 2017 for the BRT was at Rs49.453 billion which was revised upwards to Rs66.437 within just one year (the projected cost now stands at around Rs90 billion).

The PHC has raised several questions about the BRT. Among them: “Why was a consulting firm hired when they were blacklisted for a similar project in Punjab. It is a standard practice that when a firm is blacklisted in one province; all the other provinces are informed along with reasons.”

The PHC wants to know, “Why special provisions for contingency (around 6.5 billion) were indicated in the project when it is not permissible under the federal cabinet’s decision. Similarly why 20 percent premium (around 7.0 billion) on the prevailing government rates (MRS 17) was allowed. Both these items contradict each other.”

When will this flagship project of the PTI be completed? The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has so far given at least seven deadlines including April 20, 2018; May 20, 2018; June 30, 2018; December 31, 2018; March 23, 2019 and December 2019. The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has so far missed each and every deadline it gave. The new deadline is June 2021.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has lent $335 million under the Peshawar Sustainable Bus Rapid Transit Corridor Project. The ADB provided ‘technical assistance, approved project design advance (PDA), facilitated operational planning and undertook procurement for civil works and equipment’. The ADB team responsible for the project must also be held accountable.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: [email protected] Twitter: @saleemfarrukh