Transporters called for fewer tolls and greater security on the country’s highways and motorways at a conference on Monday organised by the National Highway Authority to discuss its annual maintenance plan.
Azam Khan Niazi, president of the All Pakistan Transport Owners Association, said that the NHA had set up too many toll plazas. He said that the many taxes charged of the transporters tolls, adda fees and fuel taxes trickled down to the passengers. He said that a bus had to pass five toll plazas to get from Lahore to Faisalabad. He said that each bus should be charged a single toll.
He criticised the NHA for handing out fines on stretches of highways where it did not provide protection for transporters from crossing traffic such as animals and from dacoits, such as between Lahore and Kamoke and between Narowal and Pattoki.
He also criticised plans to set up a bus terminal at Thokar Niaz Beg and requested the NHA to reconsider weight limits for loading vehicles.
Mujeeb Qadir, the NHA operations member, agreed that the bus terminal at Thokar Niaz Beg was a bad idea, saying it would choke traffic at the Motorway exit point there. He said the NHA and the National Highways and Motorways Police (NHMP) had conveyed their concerns about the project to the Punjab government. “We have also obtained a stay order against it,” he said.
Qadir did not endorse the transporters’ call for fewer tolls, saying the NHA had limited resources with which to manage a large road network. He said that the tolls charged on roads that were not motorways were meant solely for the maintenance of the road, not for security. He said that the NHMP’s presence greatly reduced traffic accidents so their presence was always useful.
Pirzada Mushtaq Ahmad, senior vice president of a transporters’ federation, said that two vehicles – a 2.0-litre diesel Corolla and a Shehzore pick-up truck – had been behind a spate of recent container robberies near Sahiwal, Lodhran, Bahawalpur, Multan and Muzaffargarh, but the police and the NHMP were refusing to take action. He said that transporters had been accused by the police of making up the robberies. He said that the police had even caught the robbers on a few occasions but later released them without explanation.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Ahmad said that transporters had informed the police upon spotting the two vehicles, usually at night, but they had made no effort to catch them. He said that on a few occasions, the NHMP had refused to do anything about the robberies because they had taken place a few metres away from the road. Qadir assured him that his concerns would be addressed “immediately”.
In the inaugural speech, Qadir said that the NHA considered the conference a pre-requisite for the preparation of a maintenance plan. He said that the authority was responsible for 4.5 per cent of Pakistan’s total road network, which was used by 80% of highway traffic.
Qadri said that the NHA was proposing a Rs17 billion maintenance plan for 2012-13 for the whole country, while it projected revenues of Rs16 billion in the year.
Regional representatives of the NHA gave briefings at the conference on their maintenance plans. Fazal Nawaz, general manager for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, proposed a Rs5.9 billion maintenance plan for 2012-13 for repairs to the N-5, which has suffered extensive damage due to NATO trucks supplying US forces in Afghanistan, to the N-45 Upper Dir Central Road, and to the flood-damaged N-95 in Swat. He said that the Rs985 million had been spent on maintenance in the current financial year.
GM (Operations) for Punjab Mukesh Kumar said that Rs408.24 million had been spent on maintenance in 2011-12. He said work on Khayali Bridge had been completed and it would be opened for traffic by the end of the month.
The general manager for Gilgit Baltistan said that Chinese company CRBC was continuing the upgrading of the Karakorum Highway at a cost of $510.42 million (Rs46.22 billion) and would finish by 2014. The 2012 deadline for the project had been delayed due to the formation of the Attabad Lake. He said that $275.06 million (Rs24.93 billion) was being spent on rebuilding the road destroyed by the lake. Kumar said that overloaded vehicles caused major damage to roads and the NHA had launched an ‘axle control regime’ to check overloading. He said 112 weigh stations were being constructed across the country. Presently, only 42 weigh stations were functional. He said the weigh stations were being built in partnership with the private sector due to the financial crunch.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2012.