Left stranded again!


The Lahore Transport Company has delayed about 2000 buses that were expected to come during the whole year because of a rise in GST and the Chairman Khwaja Ahmed Hassan has said that with a GST as high as 16 per cent, it seems almost impossible that any other work would continue with ease.
On the other end, the public has expressed its outrage and disappointment over this. The issue of buses in Lahore is becoming more and more of a problem but the fact remains that since some time, neither the old buses have been brought back after refurbishment nor any new ones have been brought out either. During this time people have to use one bus even when there is no space for them to stand inside, and in dire circumstances travel to and from their houses and work places.
Lahore is looked after by the Lahore Transport Company, which is an independent body run by funds from stakeholders and their revenue. So it is not waiting for fund allocation coming from the Federal Budget 2011-12. However the announced increase in General Sales Tax resulting in about 16 per cent has pointed towards an increase in prices and costs. This will most definitely disturb the work being done, explained the Chairman of the Lahore Transport Company, Khwaja Hassan.
“The cost of each bus will now increase by about Rs10lac per bus,” says Hassan. “Purchase is now going to be difficult at this rate.”
But while the LTC has easily washed its hands off the task of getting more buses (especially the 2000 this year which were promised by the company), the public has been downcast at hearing the news. “It was a relief to finally have heard that that we would be getting some new buses for the city this year,” says shop owner Ashraf. “But now we hear that is not going to happen either.”
“It is so tedious and difficult for us to wait at bus stops endlessly waiting for the next bus,” says Faiza 23, student. “In the winters one can tolerate this but in the summers it is beyond ridiculous how long we have to wait.”
Some others are angry.
“It is only in Pakistan that we cannot receive good public transport,” cries an angry student, who says that he has to travel extremely long distances every day in uncomfortable buses. “When is this country going to get a better system? Probably never,” he adds bitterly.
Faizan, who is a clerk, says that it was unfortunate that places all over the world had some of the best bus systems, but here there was only lip service.
“We only hear a lot of things from the heads that people will get this, or that, but in the end it is all hot air and people get absolutely nothing. Instead their lives are made worse with no CNG, no petrol, no transport, and not even proper pedestrian bridges that can enable us to walk short distances.”
Amjad Bhatti, Public Relations Officer of the LTC admits that the GST has caused a lot of problems, but that they were working on refurbishing old buses.
“Having the funds is not such a big problem,” he says. “We were given a one time grant from the government which came to about Rs 150million about a year and a half ago. But we mostly generate our own revenue which we use for our work.” But Bhatti says that while the GST has detrimentally affected their cost of buses, about 250 buses have gone in for a third party validation which means that once the procedure is over which would hopefully be by the end of June, work on the buses will start.
“In a top level meeting today,” he says. “The general managers will be traveling in buses once a week so that they can experience the issues themselves.” But while the ordinary public remains stranded and finds it more than difficult to board buses and travel in them, it appears to be almost impossible that high profile officers would end up in doing that. The public is irked and has given up on any new procedures in the transport system that may benefit them even a little.
“We have a limited choice between rickshaws and buses,” complains Kashif, 30, who works as a salesman in a small firm. “Rickshaws are too expensive, and ill maintained. There are hardly and buses running which are not overflowing with people. Besides this, we don’t even have taxis, or a circular railway system, which we could have traveled in. The transport in this city is beyond pathetic.”