What should be done, according to International standards, before initiating any project? The first and foremost thing to be kept in mind is sustainability – also known as feasibility, meaning what the long term boons of the project would be; but unfortunately, the Metro bus project is an advantage for only 10 to 15 percent of the people of Lahore now, though its costs are sparking beyond the budget allowed for Lahore, as sometimes more investment in a specific area deprives the other areas. As President Zardari has rightly said, ”We gave Punjab billions of Rupees which have just been spent mostly on Lahore.” I have mentioned some facts in my article below that will once shock the readers, that even though this project is corruption-free, yet there were recurring costs on building, destroying and again building stations, as they were not built properly at the first stage, . Will these recurring costs come into account?
The Metro bus project is a successful transport system for developed countries like the USA and Turkey, even Tehran is a developed city; but here, where people are not getting food, shelter and other basic necessities like clothes, starting such a project is a waste and the money spent on it is extravagance. One example I would like to give is to consider a home where the children’s names are eliminated from school, they have no clothes to cover their body, the woman of the house does not even have a scarf to cover herself and the owner of the house is gambling by playing bridge and draining money.
Let us start from the first fact that the Punjab government has set a fare of 20 Rupees for anyone to go from any station to any other; even if he travels from station 1 to the 27th station, he or she has to just pay 20 rupees, while the Punjab government, in any case, has to give three hundred rupees for each kilometer travelled to Al Buraq – the Turkish transport company. So even if a bus is packed with hundred people, the two-way earning of the Punjab government will only be 4000 Rs; where will they give the other 15000 from? This should be asked and enquired as this subsidized fare can be a great drawback, a loss in the upcoming future. This vote-gaining trick is quite destructive. Is Punjab a province with a treasure of gold? Where will it pay the dues from? Above all, these are only the road fare costs; what about the cost of the driving generators, the escalators, the salaries of the conductors and the drivers? Escalators cannot be successful in Pakistan and we are seeing that; they remain closed more than half of the day due to shortage of electricity, running generators requires Diesel whose price is also touching the skies.
Secondly, this claim of our top-notch is also out of the blue that from Gajumata to Shahdara, the time duration would be 55 minutes; this is wrong. According to surveys carried out by different news channels and the average time a bus stops at a station is two minutes, as there are children, old people and women too. There are 27 stations. If we multiply two by twenty seven, we get 54; so how can the ruling elite claim that a journey is of 55 minutes? This will only help those workers who come from Kasur to work in Lahore.
Thirdly, another aspect is the public attitude; we have seen with our eyes that with how much brutality, cruelty and ignorance was the Nasirabad station of the metro was completely ravaged, causing a loss of billions of rupees. Why should then this kind of public be provided such a luxurious transport system? These ethics and morals can only come by education, which is somewhere deeply hidden in our country. Fourthly, people who travel to Gulberg from Model Town have to go from the FC College turn to Gulberg, traveling 5 km extra, meaning that it costs 300 rupees more for car users.
As you all know about the security dilemma in our country, the ongoing terrorism and extremism, we should keep security as a priority for any task we carry out. The metro bus passes over the Central Jail of Lahore, where the hardcore robbers, terrorists and other major criminals are imprisoned, so this is a threat.
The Metro bus station at Youhanabad and several other places is being repaired as well as reviewed, as some of the construction was done in a wrong way, won’t these costs be counted – of the cement, the bitumen, and somewhere the beams too are being replaced. There are severe complications involved for people on the crossings, as they have to wait for 15 to 20 minutes for the bus to pass and then they can cross, ; an accidental death of a student occurred last month when the metro bus crashed into him at great speed. He did not know because their was no traffic police at that crossway, why? Someone has to be questioned regarding this ineffectiveness and the lethargic attitude of the traffic police too.
Lastly, saving the life of a patient with brain stroke is now a hardship, as the metro bus flyover has been built over the front of the general hospital neurology ward, so the patient who could arrive in two to three minutes in the past, now takes fifteen minutes. Is not this like playing with precious souls?
In a nutshell, we need to also know that as this project is completed, we cannot destroy it; rather, we have to suggest some elucidations to the complications faced. What I believe is that the metro bus project can be handed over to the private sector, as there are businessmen who may wish to invest in this, or we know what will happen. We have witnessed our railways and Pakistan International Airlines who are on the verge of collapse. I hope we solve these major problems aforementioned with a coordinated and organized effort rather than jumping into the flames ourselves.