The Lahorites have always complained about the lack of an integrated and passenger-friendly public transport system. For them the shortage of big buses is a perennial issue, not taken care of in a long time.
They were in for a surprise when they learnt that the city would soon have 200-odd, red buses on the roads, for people coming down from distant parts.
For the information of the readers, the said buses have already arrived in the city, from China, and are currently parked at the two terminals especially set up on the land provided by the government of Punjab — one in the immediate vicinity of the Lahore Railway Station, and the other in Green Town.
The fleet was scheduled to arrive in the city in the last quarter of the year 2016. However, there was some delay due to procedural issues such as clearance by customs authorities at the Karachi seaport. Those few that were got in early were not brought on the road as the plan was to launch all the buses in one go.
For those unfamiliar with the development, it may be mentioned that all the buses shall operate on the 14 feeder routes for metro bus and bring passengers from all over the city to the stations set up along the 27-kilometre long route from Shahdara to Gajju Matta for onward journey. Once the journey via metro bus is completed, the passengers disembarking from it shall again use these buses to reach their final destination.
If things go as planned, the objection of the people that metro bus benefits only those living closer to its route shall be taken care of to a great extent, claim officials. Muhammad Ozair Shah, General Manager (Operations), Punjab Mass Transit Authority (PMA), tells TNS that the red buses have been imported by Daewoo Company.
“The company shall operate these [buses] while fare collection will be carried out by the PMA and later on handed over to it according to a per-km rate.”
Shah also says the date for inauguration will be announced soon. “Right now, the drivers of these buses as well as the operators of the e-ticketing system are being given specialised training.”
He points out that the fare collection shall be through cards and highly economical for the commuters who may even get a free ride depending on their travel pattern.
“The arrival of the buses is just the preliminary phase; the PMA plans to take the number of these buses up to 1,574 over the next three years, especially when the Orange Line Metro Train becomes functional.
“The demand has been worked out in a feasibility study carried out recently,” he adds.
Asghar Ali, field supervisor at the Daewoo City Bus terminal, next to the Lahore Railway Station, says that now it will be possible for a person starting his journey from Green Town to reach Shahdara via Metro Bus and so on. “You can take one of these buses from Green Town to reach the Metro Bus station at Chungi Amar Sadhu or Kalma Chowk, and board the bus there to reach Shahdara.”
Ali says that details of the 14 routes are available on the PMA website under the title, ‘Notification of Lahore Feeder Routes.’ The Railway Station, Bhaati Chowk, R A Bazar, Babu Sabu, Doctors’ Hospital, Multan Chungi etc will be some of the starting points on these routes.
For the users of public transport, this is great news. Muhammd Nawaz who works at a factory in Green Town, says he spends Rs200 on a rickshaw to reach his workplace from the Metro Bus station after reaching there from Shahdara by paying only Rs20. “If I can find a bus that takes me there for Rs25 or less, it would save me a lot of money.”