Not a smooth run for metro bus
12 February, 2013
LAHORE: The much-hyped Metro Bus Service (MBS) faced multi-pronged problems after the government could employ only 20 out of the 45 buses promised, out of which seven buses were damaged on the very first day.
The MBS project had created a hype among the Lahorites, who tried to catch a ride on the MBS but due to the low number of buses, it turned out to be an adventure of a very different kind. The bus stops were clogged with people who tried to force their way into the buses as the management of MBS could not contain the situation and bring discipline to the affairs. Out of the 20 buses employed by the government, two could only operate for part of the day due to paucity of fuel. One of these had to retire midway near the Qaddafi Stadium stoppage where the people had to be offloaded.
The masses had turned up in numbers because of the understanding that there were 45 buses on the route but fewer buses aggravated the situation and they resorted to rather forceful ways to board the buses. This causeddamage to seven buses, five of which had issues with their automated doors.
PML-N MPA Zaeem Qadri, who deals with the MBS issues, told there was no shortage of fuel at all, instead the drivers had to fake fuel shortage in a bid to offload the Lahorites and give chance to the other people waiting for their turn to ride the bus.
He conceded to the fact that seven buses had been damaged Monday which would be repaired within the night. He partly agreed to the point that if all buses had been plied on the route, damage could be avoided. He said the number will be increased Tuesday (today). He rejected that there were 20 buses operating and said that the number of buses was 35. He said the damage to these buses upfront was already feared, therefore the government was hesitant to expose all 45 buses upfront.
Strangely, no police official or personnel of the MBS security bothered to ask the youth, standing in between the gates, to stay back from the gates to avoid any untoward incident.
Meanwhile, the passengers entering and exiting Lahore were worst hit due to the launch of the MBS. Heavy public transport coming to Lahore from GT Road was diverted from Kala Shah Kaku to Motorways to reach Lorry Adda while heavy public vehicles heading outside Lahore from Lorry Adda were diverted to Saggian to reach Kala Shah Kaku through Motorway.
The old Ravi Bridge was completely closed for private public vehicles due to the plying of Metro buses. Passengers traveling towards Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Mirpurkhas, Faisalabad, Mandi Bahauddin, Ali Pur Chattha, Gujranwala and Gujrat were the most affected by this new diversion plan launched by city traffic police.
The drivers of these vehicles were full of harsh words for the authorities of the Metro buses over what they termed a cruel initiative of stopping them to cross Ravi Bridge. Some drivers questioned why the administration allowed a foreign company's buses to cross the bridge.
The story of the motorcycle-rickshaw drivers was not different either, as they protested against the decision. Amin, a motorcycle-rickshaw driver who wanted to cross Ravi Bridge from Batti Chowk side, regretted that whenever such project was launched, they became the automatic target of the authorities. "Buses continued plying the route from 6 am to 6 pm in the evening". Nevertheless, the bus service was closed for the public after six in the evening, because of varying pretext including major factor as shortage of the fuel.
A driver of the Metro bus told that he had taken one round of the route and he will not go for second time as fuel of his bus had run out. A bus was also standing empty near Qaddafi Stadium station due to fuel shortage. He further said there were three cameras installed in each bus to have a close eye on every passenger to avoid any untoward incident.
Early in the Monday morning, only working people enjoyed their ride on the Metro bus but as clock struck 10 am, a large number of people reached their nearby stations to have a unique journey of the MBS.
Thousands of youths, including male students went wild on the free ride of the bus and they stormed almost every bus that reached the station, leaving no space for women and children to ride on the bus. They chanted slogans in favour of the Punjab government and CM Shahbaz Sharif for launching this project in record period of time. Shahdara, the first station of the metro, was the most crowded one.
Families, girls, old age people and children all were there waiting for the Metro bus at almost every station to have their first ride. BSc students Anam and Iram told there was no separate seat available for women in the Metro bus which made travel difficult for them. They demanded of the CM Punjab to issue direction to resolve this issue on priority basis.
Monday also proved a blessing in disguise for pickpockets who robbed many passengers during the journey of the bus. A passenger Naeem was robbed of Rs 1500 near Ittifaq Station.
Talking to our sources, Mr and Mrs Shazia Inayat regretted that they kept waiting for the bus for 45 minutes at Ittifaq Station but failed to have their first ride on the Metro. They said the youth had hijacked the buses and they did not allow any other person to enter the buses.
Shazia asked the authorities concerned to establish a station at Sabzi Mandi Stop near Arfa Karim Park as residents of many colonies and housing societies including Kot Lakhpat, Nawaz Sharif Colony, LDA Quarters, etc, have to travel more than a mile to reach the nearby station. She appealed to the CM to immediately announce charging of fare from the passengers to control the youth, otherwise things would go worst. She said female students and women also faced remarks from boys at the station.