Metro bus politics


After finally cutting the subsidy provided to metro bus, the government has now announced a hike of Rs 10 in its fare. Since its inception, the metro bus has stirred quite a controversy. The high cost and irrelevancy of the project is something that has irked many.

Every year, the state is providing as many as Rs 12 billion to run Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi metro bus projects, which a country like Pakistan cannot afford at the moment.

Yes, the need for an efficient, cost-effective and decent transport system cannot be undermined in any country. A good transport system improves livelihood, increases productivity and is eco-friendly. Besides, it provides an easy opportunity of movement to all, including elderly and women, who otherwise suffer a lot of inconveniences while travelling in overcrowded and creaky buses and wagons. Pakistan, unfortunately, lagged behind in providing good transport service to its people. Travelling through public buses and vans remains a taxing and gruelling exercise for most people. Decrepit, inefficient and poorly maintained transport system takes a heavy toll on commuters’ physical and psychological health. However, one eye on improving the infrastructure, after the basic needs are completed.

Moreover, the cost at it was made was extremely high. There have been fascinating statistics and facts disclosed in the media about the metro bus projects in Lahore and Islamabad. The Lahore metro bus has a 27 kilometres route with eight kilometres elevated construction completed at a cost of Rs 29.8 billion. Only about 50 kilometres away in Amritsar, India, a similar project of 31 kilometres with 12 kilometres elevated construction started during the same period. It was completed at a cost of Rs 9.2 billion.

The price of cement, steel and labour is a little higher in India. There are more than a dozen other such metro projects built in various cities of India, completed at costs three to four times lower than the Lahore project. The Islamabad metro bus project is the most expensive metro bus road project built anywhere in the world. Most modern and much better projects in the Middle East, Europe, China and America have been constructed and completed at a much lower cost.

One could ignore all this, but giving another Rs 12 billion each year to make it functional just adds to the woes. There is no point in masking that the project was doomed from start, the only way to recover its cost and make it feasible is by increasing the fare. Yes, cheap transport should be provided to the masses, but healthcare, education, food and water among other important necessities should also be worked upon.