The new prime minister has launched inquiries into the delay in Metro extension and inaugurated the service
oon after Shahbaz Sharif became prime minister, he was with his team at Peshawar Mor Metro station on Thursday. He examined the situation and went to work making the track from Peshawar Mor to New Islamabad Airport functional. After a week in office, he inaugurated the Metro Bus service on Monday.
The track was almost complete in 2017 but it was not finished over the past four years. The PM has ordered an inquiry into the delays that plagued this project He has also sought a report on laying down metro tracks from Rawat to Faizabad and linking Bhara Kahu with the main metro line.
About 100 public administration cadre officers are presently appointed in Islamabad administration. In addition, over 10,000 employees are working in the Capital Development Authority (CDA). All these officers and their subordinates are on their toes rushing throughout the day to meet targets set by the new PM.
Amer Ahmed Ali, who heads both the Islamabad administration and the CDA, is a familiar face in the city, having been around for nearly a decade. However, long-time Islamabad deputy commissioner, Muhammad Hamza Shafqaat, has been replaced with Irfan Memon, who had earlier worked with Ahad Cheema, a bureaucrat close to Shahbaz Sharif.
But regardless of their efforts to solve the city’s long standing issues with traffic congestion over the years, the projects to build and widen roads have been hitting snags.
They had somehow made Srinagar Highway, linking the city with the Motorway, signal-free by separating U-turns from fast lanes. Many people mocked it as a U-turn project but it has eased the road congestion problem to some extent.
Fed up with tricky contractors, the CDA had given the task of widening Islamabad Expressway, linking the city with GT Road, to the Frontier Works Orgnisation.
After taking up the office of prime minister, Shahbaz has made sure that work on this project is sped up. This road is flanked by housing societies, most of them illegal, that house about two-thirds of the city’s population. Although the PTI had a clean sweep of votes during the 2018 election from this area, the roads remained messy.
While the government is paying attention to mass transit, it needs to enhance the capacity of Islamabad traffic police as well. There was a time when the traffic police projected an image of professionalism and city roads were hassle free. But now, almost every road in the town is a mess.
While the government is paying attention to mass transit, it needs to enhance the capacity of Islamabad traffic police as well. There was a time when the traffic police projected an image of professionalism and city roads were hassle free. But now, almost every road in the town is a mess. Inspector General Ahsan Younas has paid attention to image building for his department, but he needs to do something for capacity building in the traffic police department as well.
Additionally, the government may look for some out-of-the-box solutions. The CDA has indicated that a separate authority is needed to look after metro bus affairs. If a separate authority is put in place, its mandate could be enhanced to convert it into a centralised authority to look after mass transit affairs of the entire city. According to the Higher Education Commission (HEC) the problem is solvable without seeking extra resources. If all the buses in use by government institutions are pooled and run by a centralised authority, it can be a viable solution. Executive summary of the proposal says that the city needs 300 buses to operate on roads and pick up passengers from their stops every 10 minutes. Interestingly, the city has over 500 buses curently, most of them parked at universities and schools. Dr Muhammad Zaman, the principal investigator of this project and founding chairman of the Department of Sociology at Quaid-i-Azam University, tells The News on Sunday that these buses can meet the requirements of these institutions and solve the mass transit problem of the city easily if pooled and placed put under a single authority.
Since these buses will be on city roads from 7 am to 9 pm, students can still use them to commute to their campuses and back. Hence, there will be no dedicated buses at a specific time in universities as they will be readily available on their gates. Currently, if a student is free earlier in the day, they have to wait until 1 pm at a designated spot when all the buses leave simultaneously, causing traffic congestion. The problem is particularly grave near the National University of Modern Languages (NUML) because the road is quite narrow.
“Only three buses need to be active in each university, acting as a feeder for the main highway where the rest of the buses will be functional. The students can use the feeder buses to reach the station on the main road and then reach their destination using route buses on the highway,” says Dr Zaman.
Once a centralised authority is in place, irregular transport operations will be regulated and the citizens will be spared their poor, overpriced services. Metro buses are good, but they are often criticized for not serving every one. PM Sharif told journalists at the metro bus station that he will work to change Pakistan. Whether he is willing to do that by saying yes to innovative solutions to chronic big city problems remains to be seen.
The writer teaches development support communication at International Islamic University Islamabad.