- Lack of transparency would raise suspicions
That the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has finally become operational should be good news for commuters in Peshawar. With an eye on several projects of the sort executed on time by the PML(N), Prime Minister Imran Khan called the Peshawar BRT ‘the best such scheme in the country.’ The BRT’s air conditioned coaches are fitted with Wi-Fi and charging facilities for cell phones users. The new transport system would reportedly facilitate patients and students as a number of major hospitals and colleges are situated near the bus stops. The buses will avowedly take 45 minutes, taking passengers from one end of the city to the other.
The BRT project was to be the PTI’s showcase enterprise. The time it has taken, with six months going to three years, and the increase of cost from Rs49 billion to Rs 66.43 billion, gave birth to perturbing questions, some raised in the Peshawar High Court. It is also being asked whether the PTI will be able to maintain the required level of service and transportation quality in what is being billed as the only third-generation transport project in the country. Several delays in the timeframe for the buses to hit the ground and the large rise in the costs do not create confidence in the KP government’s ability.
With an estimated 300,000-plus commuters using the BRT daily, the stage-wise price of the tickets will either require an additional staff of ticket checkers or the installation of automatic barriers at the terminals. With power outages being all too common in Peshawar, the automatic barriers would be difficult to maintain. The appointment of ticket-checking staff could open the doors for corruption. Instead of being a profitable service as envisioned by the Prime Minister, the BRT could become a financial burden for the province.
An ANP leader has demanded an enquiry into the charges of lack of transparency in the project. The ground that probes by NAB and FIA ordered by Peshawar High Court would hinder the progress of the project being valid no more after the completion of the project; it looks reasonable that the PTI should agree to the probe to clear the matter. A refusal would strengthen the perception that there is something fishy in the matter.