Frustrated by the frequent changes of deadlines for the completion of Peshawar’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister last Saturday ordered an inquiry into the project. Chief Minister Mahmood Khan was supposed to inaugurate the project on March 23, but work on the project has not been completed, and Khan was told that the inauguration was not possible.
Officials in the KP government told The Friday Times that the chief minister was informed about the missed deadline in the last week of February, when he was chairing a meeting on the project. “The chief minister got so angry when he was told it was not ready to be inaugurated on March 23, that he walked out in protest saying that officials dealing with the BRT project had been lying to him,” said a senior official of the KP government close to the matter.
On Saturday, March 23, when the chief minister could not inaugurate the project, or even a portion of it, the Provincial Inspection Team was directed to conduct an inquiry to ascertain causes of delay and “furnish a comprehensive report fixing responsibilities so that the government could initiate action against those responsible for the delay,” said a statement issued by the chief minister house on Saturday evening.
Since the BRT project has already missed four deadlines, and March 23 was the fifth, people on social media raised a storm of criticism against the PTI-led government
“This was a pro-poor project launched to find a durable solution to the longstanding traffic problems of the city. The inconveniences faced by the common man are not acceptable,” the chief minister said in the statement.
Sources in the government say the Provincial Inspection Team has conducted the inquiry and the report has been submitted to the chief minister.
Officials say the main corridor for the buses was carpeted but work on the stations is yet to be completed. Moreover, the Intelligent Transport System has not yet been installed at the stations and at the Chamkani and Hayatabad depots, which are still under construction.
TransPeshawar, the urban mobility company established by the KP government for the operation of the project, could only ensure delivery of 21 buses of the total 220. The rest are yet to be delivered by the Chinese vendor who got the contract for the project.
Since the BRT project has already missed four deadlines, and March 23 was the fifth, people on social media raised a storm of criticism against the PTI-led government for failing to complete the project in the promised time frame. The chief minister himself announced on Friday — a day before the inauguration date — that he would not inaugurate an “incomplete project” and claimed that his party does not believe in “takhti politics.”
The government ran available buses on the main corridor on March 22 as part of a test drive. KP Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai said that this was not the “soft opening of the project” as promised. “Civil work of the project has been completed. The project’s completion was delayed because of rains,” he said in a statement issued on Friday, March 22.
The Peshawar BRT has become a laughingstock due to frequent design changes and unmet deadlines. A senior official close to the project said more than 20 major changes were made to the design since the project was launched. “Small changes are countless and they are made on a daily bases,” the official said.
“The most recent was the dismantling of some parts of the corridor which had already been constructed,” the official said. Pictures and videos of the corridor being dismantled on University Road went viral on social media and people cracked jokes on designers and engineers of the project. The corridor was dismantled and widened just a couple of weeks ahead of its fifth deadline.
Old problems, new deadlines
Issues with meeting deadlines and design problems emerged soon after the inception of the project. Former chief minister Pervez Khattak inaugurated the project on October 19, 2017 and claimed that it would completed in six months. In 2018, Khattak was angry when he heard of the delay as his government could not take credit of the project and he was in the middle of his election campaign. The incomplete project was creating traffic and pollution problems for the people of Peshawar.
May 20, 2018 was another deadline for the soft launch—a portion of the project was to be opened—but once again, the construction work was incomplete and the only prototype bus on which the soft launch was to be made could not make it to Peshawar till May 28, the day Khattak’s government completed its term.
Then, the Peshawar Development Authority – the executing agency of the BRT -claimed that they would complete the project by June 30 and later, by December 31. When the new government stepped in, the fifth deadline was set for March 23. Now the government has stopped announcing dates for the inauguration.
Along with the frequent changes in the design, the project is criticised because of the traffic jams citizens of Peshawar have been enduring for the last 17 months.
According to TransPeshawar, the Chamkani terminal has been contracted to Daewoo Pakistan for fuelling and maintenance of buses, hiring of the terminal’s staff and drivers for the buses. The operation contract of Hayatabad terminal is yet to be outsourced and construction work on both terminals is still underway.
The multi-billion rupees project was started with the financial support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). It is a corridor of 26-kilometre-long corridor, which starts from the Chamkani area, passes through the G.T Road, Shuba Bazaar, Peshawar Saddar, University Road, Aman Chowk and ends at Hayatabad Phase-5.
It consists of 31 bus stations, two terminals for buses, a bicycle track, footpaths and a drain. The project also features a bicycle sharing system and will have 220 diesel-hybrid buses. The project also includes feeder routes on which the buses will be operated to bring commuters to the stations from various areas of the city. The project also has a second phase which includes a corridor on Khyber Road, but the construction has not started.