LAHORE – As the incumbent Punjab government is about to complete its tenure and another general election is approaching fast the miseries of hundreds of thousands of daily commuters are yet to be addressed in all the major cities of the province. The provincial government has introduced about 60 new buses in Lahore during its long tenure of four years and it looks the issue needs many government tenures to be resolved.
TheNation has learnt through official data, sources and experts on transport sector that the provision of affordable urban transport facilities in big cities of the Punjab has become a dream to be fulfilled. It remained at the least priority of the provincial government during the last four years and the people’s representatives sitting in the Punjab Assembly have not discussed the subject on the floor of the House on a single time.
The local transporters have almost closed down their businesses on routes in cities. The foreign transport companies (Chinese, Korean and Turkish), which remained at the top priority of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to attract them for investment in urban transport sector, are still not looking enthusiastic to bring their buses in the province due to law and order situation. And despite the hectic efforts of the CM and in result of his visits to China and Turky, so far about 60 Chinese buses have started their operation in Lahore. However, it was being claimed that about 500 buses are reaching in Punjab in coming months.
Currently, Rawalpindi has not more than 300 buses, Faisalabad and Multan both have almost 500 buses while the thousands of commuters of the provincial metropolis have been ‘enjoying’ facilities of only 250 buses against the need of at least 2,000 vehicles. The situation in Gujranwala, Bahawalpur and Gujrat is almost same. The Lahore Transport Company which is responsible to ensure better transport management in the City has failed to bring local transporters on board to operate their buses in Lahore. A company official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that transporters blackmailed the government and demanded huge amount in terms of subsidy. But the transporters say that the LTC is totally ignoring the local transporters and encouraging the foreign investors.
“LTC officials are involved in many kind of business,” said a veteran transporter. “You can guess their seriousness through a recent example in which an official of LTC called the transporters’ meeting and instead of discussing transport issue with them, he throughout the meeting preached to use an engine oil of a company in buses,” added the transport owner. “They are even not giving us dimensions of new routes, we are fed up with the LTC,” he regretted.
According to an official, the CNG shortage is another issue which is a major hurdle for introducing good urban transport system in big cities. “There is common culture of using free transport by all the police employees and majority of office workers and by students, which also creates nuisance for transporters,” said the official. The students have been using free transport for years and they are not willing to surrender their ‘right’ and majority of them could not afford fare, so the officials suggested that the government should give subsidy to transporters in this regard.
Punjab Government had allocated Rs1, 190 million for the transport sector in the budget for the fiscal year 2010-11. But in 2011-12 budget, it had ‘generously’ allocated Rs4.5 billion for the Yellow Cab scheme while one billion rupees had been allocated for Lahore Mass Transit System and an amount of Rs7.3 billion had been allocated for the transport sector on the whole. The government had then suggested as many as Rs7.2476 billion for new schemes in transport sector while it was announced that Rs52.365 million would be spent on regular on-going schemes. In case of Lahore, the PML-N led government had suggested Rs100 million for a new project of Multi Model Inter City Bus terminal on the Ferozpur Road and Rs1 billion as subsidy for induction of CNG/diesel buses in the urban transport system and Rs647.635 million were allocated for induction of new buses in Lahore Transport Company. But this huge amount has yet to bring any fruit for commuters commonly belong to poor and middle class and they are all and in millions including office workers, women and elderly people, labourers, students and others.