PESHAWAR: The National Geographic TV would be sending its crew to the provincial capital next month to video-graph the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.
Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) Director General Israrul Haq told The News that the BRT costing Rs49.346 billion would be video-graphed because it is the biggest project in the history of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and is being built at a phenomenal speed.
“It is also the biggest BRT in Pakistan to-date. Once completed, we would present BRT Peshawar for an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records due to its fast-paced completion,” he added.
He said the PDA earlier didn’t approach the media as the work on the BRT was in the early stages. “Now that we have made headway on the project, the PDA is open to the media and willing to show the progress it had achieved,” he said.
Though Israrul Haq conceded hat the BRT won’t be ready by its stated completion date of six months by April 29, he said work was continuing apace and the target for completing the project is now May 20. “About 9,000 people are working on the project round-the-clock in three shifts. The PDA’s BRT team consists of 250 employees and we have more than 8.000 workers hired by the contractors,” he said.
The PDA Director General argued that the BRT wasn’t only about meeting deadlines and completing the project in six, seven or eight months. “The work on BRT started on October 29, 2017 and it is true that a six-month timeline was announced for its completion by April 29. However, changes in design and addition of new features and structures caused some delay. We are also conscious about maintaining quality of the work,” he pointed out.
According to Israrul Haq, the 27-kilometres long, signal-free, third generation BRT capable of transporting 360,000 passengers per day was unique in many respects. “It would have 68 kms feeder routes, a bicycle track, a pedestrian track, park and ride facility at Chamkani, Dabgari and Hayatabad and a total of 16 kms of flyovers,” he explained. He added that as part of the BRT the facelifting of all heritage buildings, mostly public and some private, at the Qissa Khwani bazaar, Hashtnagri and Sunehri Masjid Road would be done to beautify Peshawar.
He reminded that the 21-kms long metro bus project in Lahore was built in 14 months, the 26-kms Islamabad metro bus in a year, and the metro bus in Multan also in 12 months. “In comparison, the BRT Peshawar is 27-kms long with 11 kms distance at grade, 13 kms elevated and 3 kms underpass section and 30 bus stations has additional and unique features and yet it would be completed ahead of all similar projects in Pakistan,” he maintained.
Refuting the allegations that no pre-feasibility or feasibility study of the BRT was done, the PDA head recalled that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) had sponsored these studies at a cost of Rs150 million. He claimed the detailed engineering design and the PC-1 were properly done and approval obtained for the BRT from all federal government institutions such as the Planning Commission, CDWP and ECNEC. He said the tendering process and the opening of bids was done in a transparent manner at a local hotel in presence of the media and the lowest bidder was awarded the contract. He said the project was of international standard and was being strictly monitored by the ADB, which has provided 85 percent financing of Rs41.8 billion for the BRT and is very conscious about quality control.
Israrul Haq disclosed that the order for 220 modern buses for the first phase had already been placed with a Chinese company and the first batch of 40 buses would be delivered in mid-May. He said each diesel-electric hybrid bus would cost Rs30 million. He added that three megawatts of electricity would be made available to run the buses, escalators, elevators, generators and other facilities round-the-clock.
He disclosed that all the 630 passenger vehicles, including buses and wagons, plying on the roads prior to the BRT, also known as TransPeshawar, had been acquired by the BRT project and the drivers rendered jobless would be offered jobs to drive the BRT buses on a priority basis after undergoing a driving and aptitude test and some training. He said owner of each vehicle had been offered about Rs1.4 million, which includes one year of unemployment payment. Besides, he said the drivers could get licenses for driving vehicles on the feeder routes if they don’t want or are found incapable of driving the BRT buses.
The PDA DG said it is true that the beautification of Peshawar done prior to BRT was damaged and green belts and trees had to be removed to make way for the corridor. However, he claimed every effort was made to save the trees and about 300 out of the 600 were replanted. He said the trees that weren’t environment friendly were discarded. “We have also planted 86,000 saplings during the recent spring plantation drive, including more than 20,000 on the 22-kilometres long Ring Road from Hayatabad to Motorway, 15,000 at the Regi Town and the rest in Hayatabad. Also, 15 new parks are being developed in Hayatabad,” he added.