Addressing public rallies in Muzaffargarh and Multan districts of Punjab before elections on May 4, 2013, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had promised that Multan would also get a Metro Bus Project.
PML-N Punjab Government in 2012 started Pakistan’s first-ever metro bus project in Lahore. The PML-N leaders highly promoted the idea during their election campaigns for Election 2013 and promised to launch metro bus projects in other cities as well. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who has been in office for the last eight and a half years, established Punjab Metro Bus Authority (PMBA) in 2012 for spreading metro bus projects to other cities. The government also promulgated Metro Bus Authority Act 2012 in this regard. Multan is the most populous city of Southern Punjab but lacks public transportation.
In an interview with Truth Tracker in 2013, PMBA’s Managing Director Sibtain Fazle Hakeem said that the government had hired consultancy services and invited bids to conduct transport modeling and feasibility studies for mass transit systems in Multan and invited a tender on Sep 10, 2013 for this purpose.
“Once the feasibility report is prepared, the project will commence in Multan. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif will allocate and approve the budget for this project,” he said.
To track the promise, Truth Tracker contacted Sabir Sadozai, Technical Advisor of Multan Metro Bus project.
He said that the Multan Metro Bus Project is underway and likely to be completed before December 25th,, 2016.
The introduction of an international standard Mass Transit System in Multan is a stepping stone in the history of the city, Sadozai said. Metro Multan covers a length of 18.5 km with 12.5 km elevated routes, starting from Bahaud Din Zikria University to Kumharan Walla Chowk with an approximate cost of Rs 31 billion.
The route of the Multan Metro Bus Project has been chosen in light of public convenience, he said. The ground and elevated route of the metro passes through major intersections of Northern Bypass, Chungi No 6, Chungi no.9, Fish Market, Daulat Gate, Chungi No 14, BCG Chowk and Vehari Chowk to facilitate approximately 96,000 commuters daily.
“Daewoo Pakistan would operate a fleet of 35 buses initially under the auspices of Punjab Metro Authority. The number of operational buses would increase according to need as the Metro depot has the capacity for 100 buses,” he told Truth Tracker.
He said that Multan Metro has additional features that are missing from Lahore and Rawalpindi Metro Bus systems. Lahore and Rawalpindi’s elevated route is 8.5 km long, whereas Multan has a 12.5 km long elevated route. There would be 21 terminals in Multan, seven of them at road level and 14 others on the elevated route.
Multan’s system will also cater to people with special needs. For people with permanent or temporary disability, wheelchairs have been arranged to move safely from one floor to the other and catch the transit by using the lift.
“For the blind, special tiles have been fixed to help them move without stick, another feature that distinguishes Multan Metro from the others,” said Sadozai.
Construction of Multan Metro Bus System was an uphill task, he said. For the completion of Corridor-I, nearly 15 acres of land was acquired at a cost of Rs. 4.23 billion for providing better transit facilities to masses. Moreover, engineers had to solve difficulties in placing heavy girders to meet the goals.
“A command & control center is being built at Chungi No.9 to manage the system through surveillance cameras and computer network to ensure transparency and quality of work,” said Sadozai.
He says that the mega project of Multan metro bus system is currently in its final phase where test drives are being held to ensure the desired efficiency and performance of the system. Multan Metro will be completed in a record time to meet the transportation demands of the city.
Talking to Truth Tracker in 2013, opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Mehmoodur Rasheed had said 70 billion Lahore Metro Bus Project was ‘wastage of resources’.
“Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and its leaders are in habit of befooling the innocent masses. They have no sincerity with the masses. By starting metro bus project in Lahore, they deprived other districts of Punjab of their due share in resources,” he added.
Political Economist at Lahore University of Management Sciences, Mobeen Chughtai told Truth Tracker while there is no argument that the two metro bus projects in Lahore and the twin cities serve over 300,000 users every day, one of the major criticisms leveled against both projects is the opportunity cost associated with the expenditure of approximately 80 billion rupees.
Chughtai said that Lahore had an already relatively robust transport system in place at the time the projects were announced. However, the rest of Punjab, especially the southern districts, are woefully underdeveloped.
He added that the hospital coverage for the province, for example, stands at 57 hospitals and DHQs in the entire province. Many lives are lost simply because of a lack of access to immediate emergency health services.
“Or take another example of a complete breakdown of the education infrastructure in the country which is the top issue of the country,” said Chughtai.
He said, “I am of the opinion that while development of a public transport infrastructure services in the provincial and federal capital are commendable acts – they do point towards an overly focused Lahore-based development regime rather than one which would uplift the people of the other districts.”
Agreeing with him, another economic expert from University of Central Punjab, Dr Qais Aslam said that the PML-N leadership decided that for first 3 years to concentrate on Metros, infrastructure development and Orange Train Project as well as to facilitate their rich friends for economic gains to the private investors and to concentrate on their promises to their voters in the last two years for the next election in 2018.
Considering the details provided by the government official, Truth Tracker rules that the promise is underway.