The Other Side of Metro Bus Lahore

 

 

 

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When they say it is all good, look deeper!

The Metro Bus System (MBS), of Lahore is arguably the country’s first rapid mass transit bus project and a state of the art transport service built through an enormous amount of money and effort.

As a general rule, all major cities of Pakistan are in dire need of major transport projects and facilities. The overcrowding and overloaded burden on the existing poor transportation facilities coupled with mismanagement and indifferent attitude of the provincial governments have led the situation into a nasty arena. In such a chaotic situation, Punjab government’s Lahore Metro Bus Service project is a step in the right direction and more importantly a necessary rung fixated into the ladder of development.

Before bombarding the project with a loaded baggage of criticism prepared through a rigorous evaluation and scrutiny, let’s see the good side of the picture first. Tearing apart the iron rods and steel sheets let’s look at the bigger picture and count to five as the goods of this project are exposed:

1- Sensuous Facility: If you are a Lahori and are not endowed with prestige resources, you must have experienced the dirty dingy ride on of the old Lahore transport facilities, whether it be a noisy rickshaw or crowdy local bus. Lahore Metro service has come as a dignified rescuer to the poor and middle class especially in face of not-so-good pre-existing transport facilities. MBS, as a modern transport facility in face of few and faulty pre-existent transport services has provided a better ride option for all, particularly for women and students.

2- A Ride for all: The best thing about Lahore Metro is its very service; an exclusive, long-route transit bus racing upon an uninterrupted 27 km path is a dignified facility ride for all. This practical facility extended to the masses is bound to facilitate millions over due course of time.

3- The Pompous Outlook: Following the footsteps of many developed and rapidly developing countries, Metro Bus Lahore, is built upon the Turkish metro bus structure and has been made by a mutual collaboration between Turkish government and Punjab government. With a 27 km track of Lahore metro, it would be unwise to make it stand in the line of some other metro systems of the world like of Tehran bus track which is about 100 km long or of Jakarta which is 170 km long. However, this project has put Pakistan in the list of about 36 countries that uses the modernized transport facility structure of Bus Rapid Transit system including Brazil, India and Turkey.

4- Lightening Pace of the Project: ‘When there is a will there is a way’. These words stand true as we saw how impressively the metro bus project unfolded and reached its completion point within the time frame of mere eleven months. From sketches to its long laid stretches, the whole structure of Lahore got modified in eleven months. This shows how if there is government’s will, things get done way quicker than adopting the usual long, boring, snail speed style. “The pace of project was quite impressive for the deputy prime minister of Turkey who expressed his views on the inauguration day”.

5- An Exemplary Model As a first of its kind, Metro Bus System, if turned into a success has the potential to act as an exemplary model to be implanted into other cities and provinces (with some necessary changes/improvements). If replicated in other cities with proper investment in planning the project according to the needs and requirements of each city then this would be a huge step towards development of infrastructure and enhancement of transportation facilities. Moreover, this project is likely to put pressure on other provincial governments to bring about similar developmental changes and provide the people with modern transport facilities. Such a competition could bear benefits of rendering governments responsible, which could happen if and only if the competition is played fairly and it stays out of the blame game, something opposite to the usual Pakistani politics style.

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Now let’s see the other side of the picture. These eleven months have inflicted many issues upon the 10 million people of Lahore. Along with the difficulties brought upon us there are some grave issues which are pulling back the MBS from driving fast towards its success line.

1- The High Cost of the Project: The high cost of the project has raised series of questions and feelings of concern among many. The cost of the project at the time of planning was different and as the project unfolded, the cost increased tremendously. According to the Punjab government, the total amount of money spent on the Lahore Metro Bus Service is 30 billion rupees. The actual figure might be much more than this, but even if we take their word for it, the economic analysis shows the money spent on this project definitely does not make it stand as the best option for consuming the bulk of resources it did. To give you an idea, consider the fact that the entire allocated money for Punjab infrastructure development is Rs63 billion and if 30 million is spent upon this one project it means that 50% or half of the development budget of Punjab was spent on one track of 27 km long, catering to the passengers of that route only and all that in one city of the whole province! How justified is that?

2- The Burden of Running Cost, Maintenance and Security Issues: With already such a high building cost, the burden of maintenance, electricity for escalators as well the security of buses is a worry some job for the government. And if either of these tasks is to be taken leniently, there would be a serious risk of failure of this project. The fact that within 2 days of its run, the overcrowding and over excited crowd of Lahore put off road some 12 buses indicate towards the problem of proper security and safety regulations in order to cordon off the probability of such issues rising up in the long run as they could then jeopardize the whole project.

3- The Planning Issues: Had the metro bus went through proper planning phases, the execution would have been different; more effective and efficient. The fact that there is excessive and unnecessary use of steel and iron rods, caging up the whole track is just one example of how the money, time and effort of many have been wasted. Also if half of the track of MBS is above the ground, then why was the other half brought down on road, increasing the need of extra fly-overs and underpasses for the normal traffic to resume its flow? An overhead railway metro system (which was probably perceived earlier) would have been a way better option with the additional factors of ‘longer life, less maintenance and speedy journey’.

4- A Sense of Deprivation among other cites: The Metro Bus System has provided a reason for other cities and provinces to feel deprived off. Lahore has become a reason for envious feelings and jealousy as it now holds what others don’t and arguably it has what it has on the expense of others’ deprivation, bringing in use the resources of other cities of Punjab.

5- A Wrong Calculation, perhaps: Rapid Transit Bus is definitely not the best option of transportation. A system of Underground Bus or Subways build upon the structure of London or New York could have been the golden project for Lahore, which would not just have depicted better planning but also a promising future. Moreover, the amount thrown into this one project could have been the game changer for so many other sectors of Punjab, say for instance health. Compare the Rs 30 billion spent on this project, with the Rs16.5 billion allocated to the health sector for the entire province of Punjab. Had this kind of money been injected into the health sector, the many issues and some demands of young doctors would have been met with ease.

So, if you are told everything is fine, how about finding the other side?

 

 

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