To reduce traffic, improve air quality and promote safe and efficient public transport, ex-Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pervez Khan Khattak initiated constructing work of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project in Peshawar on October 19, 2017.
Addressing the inaugural ceremony, Pervez Khattak announced that PKR 48 billion worth BRT project would be completed in record six-month period with financial assistance from Asian Development Bank (ADB). He also claimed that Peshawar BRT would be cheaper than similar projects undertaken by Federal and Punjab governments.
According to the official documents, total cost of the project was estimated to be $587 million for which Asian Development Bank would provide US $335 million, Agence Francaise Development $75 million, European Investment Bank $75 million while KP government would provide US $ 102 million.
Problems and controversies surfaced from the very first day of the launching of BRT; the main reason was urgency of Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, who wanted to complete and operationalize the BRT project at any cost on April 20, 2018 or at least before the expiry of his tenure on May 28, 2018. He had planned to use the BRT mega project as main election slogan; thus, the haste and high expectations of the KP government caused damage to the project. Just 15 days ahead of final deadline, which was May 20, 2018, Pervez Khattak sacked Chief Executive Officer of the company (or project) Altaf Akbar Durrani accusing him of deliberately delaying the project. As a protest, Chairman of Board of Directors (BoD) and two other high officials of the company resigned creating even more problems and panic for the provincial government.
To the dismay of Pervez Khattak and then PTI government, BRT rather provided an opportunity to the opposition political parties to criticize PTI during the elections campaign of 2018. However, due to PTI overall good governance, anti-BRT campaign during elections failed. PTI won more provincial assembly seats than the previous elections and formed majority government in the province. As the new government took charge, work on the project was accelerated, however, government still failed to meet several deadlines to complete the project.
Peshawar High Court (PHC) has also taken up the BRT case. While heading three- member bench, the Honorable Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth remarked “The project has grossly been mishandled and mismanaged from inception by the provincial government officials and thus far three project directors have been replaced.”
The PHC had raised several questions about BRT and had directed Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to probe alleged irregularities but the provincial government moved the Supreme Court against the decision of PHC, which in its interim decision barred FIA from probing BRT project irregularities.
Moreover, the ADB technical supervision team has also raised several observations over the BRT project, like the inferior quality construction, using of slippery tiles and missing of arrow tiles, improper docking of buses and design deviations etc.
Despite all issues mentioned above, no one can disagree with the importance of the project. The BRT could be a game changer for the City of Peshawar.
According to Kamran Bangash, Special Assistant to the Chief Minister on local governments, BRT is one of the best projects which would provide high standard yet affordable transport service to the low income class of Peshawar. According to him an estimated 400,000 people would travel in BRT on daily basis with much ease and comfort. BRT would provide jobs to hundreds of families as well, said Kamran Bangash.
Provincial Minister for Transport Shah Mohammad Wazir said that BRT is not merely a route and few hundred buses; rather it is a grand multifaceted project under which the decades old pollution and noise making vehicles would be replaced by environment friendly hybrid buses. He said due to BRT the existing roads were extended and old transmission lines of electricity and old pipelines of gas and water were changed. Shah Mohammad Wazir said BRT would be a relief to the commuters in otherwise jam-packed and snail-paced traffic that not only consume time but energy as well. He said BRT route has connected all major colleges, universities, government offices and hospitals, so that people could have easy-quick access to various destinations.
The Trans Peshawar Company officials say that the university students, women and government employees would be amongst the top beneficiaries of BRT in terms of comfortable and cheap transport services as the BRT corridor covers all major colleges, universities, PDA and civil secretariat.
Despite various hitches, If completed, the project will turn Peshawar into more liveable and safe city. It will boost private sector investments and will provide job opportunities and better living standards to the local population.