Public transport looks for a turnaround


A new subsidy, expected to be implemented within a couple of months, is likely to change the public transport system for the better, flooding the city roads with an array of new buses that will cater for a large number of commuters.
According to Transport Secretary Mohammad Yousaf, a final decision on the subsidy had not been taken yet but it was expected in the very near future. “The subsidy will start within a couple of months, in fact within one month,” said Mohammad Yousuf. “We are planning to give about Rs. 1250 per bus, per day.”
Buses that have closed down over the past two or three years have caused the public transport system in Lahore to suffer greatly. Out of 1100 buses that began at first pouring out onto the roads, from 1999, only 400 have been left, say transporters.
Meanwhile, those who travel using public transport, especially buses, have other complaints to make. “No bus is timed, and the next one comes after so long that I give up and take a rickshaw instead,” says Rehan Ahmed, who has to go to work to a long distance from his home.
Rehan is just one of those many people who face problems commuting within Lahore. In fact many think that there is too much attention being given to building new roads or the construction of underpasses and flyovers, rather than focusing on the core issue of improving modes of transport. Nazia Choudhary, who has newly shifted to Defence area voices that transport problems are the worst there.
“I have hardly had access to buses in Defence,” she says, “I cannot afford to pay for rickshaws, especially since they don’t even have a meter to measure the distance with!” Various complaints by other citizens too seem to establish the fact that there was serious dissatisfaction with the public transport system.
The reason is never known to people as to why there was a lack of buses in good condition. In the meantime, the buses that are already running have now grown old, rusty and are almost falling apart.
Rasheed from the Premier Transport is equally dissatisfied. “The main reason for the decline in Lahore’s buses, are the continuous rising fuel prices,” he says. “In 1999, we had new buses being constructed for Lahore, and by 2002, we had New Khan, Baloch, Niazi and Monolite. But comparing the diesel prices of 1999, and of 2002 we have a difference of at least Rs15. Today fuel prices have reached about Rs75. How are we supposed to operate?” he questions.
He says that private companies had to pay their employees social security, EOBI, and salaries, among other things, and at the same time were expected not to raise fares after diesel prices shoot up. He said illegal motorcycle rickshaws had played their part in the closure of busses in the city as they had managed to pop up over time.
“These rickshaws hardly have any manufacturing or assembling costs and the owners don’t even have to pay to conductors. Mostly underage youngsters drive these rickshaws, and if they ever have an accident, nothing goes on record.”
He said that their construction required an old two stroke motorcycle to which a rickshaw body could easily be attached to make it into a motorcycle rickshaw. He added that these rickshaws were dangerous because they were unregistered and were not checked by the monitoring authority.
The transport secretary says that once buses start on the road as before, these rickshaws will automatically disappear. He said “We will also help the closed down busses, if the owners show interest in returning.”