–Punjab info minister says no decision taken to increase metro fares
–Says govt considering options to keep project running in feasible way
LAHORE: With the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led Punjab government proposing to end subsidy on the Lahore Metro Bus and announcing that the fare would now on be decided on stop-to-stop basis, commuters have been left rather unhappy as they say that a majority cannot afford to spend more than Rs20 to avail the mass transit facility.
According to a survey conducted by Pakistan Today, the proposal to end subsidy by the new government is being decried by frequent passengers of the metro bus.
It was observed that among the passengers is a majority of labourers, factory employees or students, who say that they had been relieved of exorbitant rates of private buses and vans ever since the metro bus was launched.
The current metro bus fares are divided into four policies according to which the fare of a one-way trip is Rs20; however, any passenger in possession of a Metrobus Card can make three journeys on a discounted rate. The fare for a single journey on a Metrobus Card is Rs15, while that for two journeys is Rs20. The fare for three journeys on the card is Rs25.
The Lahore Metro has only one route – from Shahdara to Gajumata – that contains 27 stops, including Shahdara, Niazi Chowk, Timber Market, Azadi Chowk, Bhaati Chowk, Katchehri, Civil Secretariat, M.A.O College, Janazgah, Qartaba Chowk, Shama, Ichra, Canal, Qazafi Stadium, Kalma Chowk, Model Town, Naseer Abad, Itfaq Hospital, Qainchi, Ghazi Chowk, Chungi Amar Sidhu, Kamahan, Atari Saroba, Nishtar Colony, Yuhana Abad, Dulu Khurd and Gajumata.
According to sources in the Metro Bus Authority, almost 20,000 to 30,000 commuters avail the transit facility on a daily basis.
“I have to reach Gajumata from Shahdara every day and the current fare is quite reasonable. If the fare is increased, I will not be able to afford it as my total salary is Rs15,200,” Shakeel Ahmed, a peon who works at an office in Gajumata, told Pakistan Today.
The government is already increasing the rates of eatables, oil and electricity and under such circumstances, if transport facilities are also made expensive, the poor will have nowhere to go, he added.
Javed Masih, another frequent passenger of the metro bus, said that he reaches Bhaati Gate from Nishtar Colony near Gajumata on a daily basis.
“The metro bus is a blessing for me and I think that the previous government has developed this in our interest. I do not earn enough to afford a rickshaw or bike and therefore this service is the best for me. If the fares are increased, what will we do and how will we manage our jobs?”
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MPA Mian Marghoob Ahmed, while talking to Pakistan Today, said that the decision of ending subsidy on the metro bus would further burden the poor.
“This will be a brutal act of the PTI government as the service is meant for the poor. If the government sticks to its decision, we will raise this issue in the Punjab Assembly.”
Punjab Information Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, on the other hand, said that no decision as to increase the fares of the metro bus had been taken so far. “There is a subsidy of Rs12 billion which the government is giving paying for the service. The outcome of the metro is also not what is seen in other countries.”
He added that in India, China or London almost 900,000 people used the service on a daily basis but unfortunately in Pakistan, not more than 100,000 or 200,000 people commuted via the metro.
“The Multan metro buses usually have no passengers. The problem is that billions of rupees have been spent on the project and so we have to keep it running.”
“We are considering options to keep the project running in a feasible way so that the people or the government are not burdened. Anyhow, nothing has been finalised yet and we will try to come up with a mechanism that is in the better interests of the general public,” Chohan said.