The government’s plans to install high-tech cameras and sensors around Lahore to develop an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) are to be scaled down and restricted to just the route of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system for now, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Workers are currently preparing a special bus-only lane for the first phase of the BRT from Gajju Matta to Kalma Chowk on Ferozepur Road and it is scheduled to be operational by May.
Sources at a meeting some 10 days ago of stakeholders in the two projects including the Traffic Engineering and Planning Agency (TEPA), the Lahore Transport Company (LTC) and the Planning and Development (PD) Department – said that PD Board Chairman Javed Aslam had expressed reservations at the cost of the ITS and TEPA had been unable to convince him as to its need.
Mazhar Hussain Khan, project director for the BRT and ITS and the director for engineering construction in TEPA, said that the ITS project was still being considered and had not been shelved, as suggested by some media reports. “Planning and Development has not shown any reservations about the project,” he said. “It’s an expensive project so TEPA will provide complete details of it to the department before they decide the fate of the ITS.”
Earlier, Khan had told The Express Tribune that work on the ITS would begin on March 5 and Rs4 billion would be spent on it in the first year. It envisaged the installation of cameras, sensors and LCD screens at 150 junctions, all operated from and monitored at a control centre, to improve traffic management, catch traffic violators and improve security.
Uzair Shah, the general manager for infrastructure at the LTC, said that the Planning and Development Department had expressed concerns about the cost of the ITS, but had sought a detailed presentation on setting up cameras and sensors for the BRT.
“Smart systems are essential for the BRT as it ensures the bus will always get a green signal. The Planning and Development Department is apparently ready to fund third generation smart signalling systems for the BRT,” he said.
If the high tech signalling system is not ready by the time the initial BRT track is finished in May, the LTC will depute around 18 officers to junctions where the bus-lane intersects regular traffic to ensure that the buses are not stuck at signals, he added.
Shah said that the ITS would help save money in the long run. If the ITS meant each vehicle in Lahore was spending one minute less at traffic signals every day, it would amount to Rs1 billion in savings from fuel costs in one year, he said.
He said work on the next BRT track would start in May and it would be from Shahdara to Data Darbar, a distance of around eight kilometres, on Ravi Road. He said that it took a vehicle travelling in regular traffic around 30 minutes to get to Kalma Chowk from Kahna. A bus travelling on the BRT at 27km per hour would cover the distance in about 18 minutes, he said.
Shah said that the LTC planned to run 120 buses on the BRT from the start of operations in May. He said 10 articulated buses – elongated buses with two sections linked by a pivoting joint – would be operated on the route once the entire track is finished, probably in December.
The LTC will introduce special travel cards – the Lahore Chal Card – with help from the Punjab IT Board for the new bus system, Shah said. The e-cards would be available for weekly or monthly travel or for specific journeys.
The PD Board chairman was unavailable for comment.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2012.