The Capital Development Authority (CDA) Board on Monday approved the Rs7.5 billion Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) bus project for the federal capital in principle, along with the establishment of a BRT cell in the CDA to oversee the project.
Establishment of the cell under the terms of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) — which has already financed and carried out a prefeasibility study — is the first practical step towards making the proposed project a reality.
In November 2012, Cities Development Initiative for Asia — an ADB subsidiary — carried out prefeasibility studies in Islamabad for the BRT project. The prefeasibility report submitted to the civic agency termed the project feasible within the existing road infrastructure. The study estimated that around 42,000 commuters travel within the federal capital daily, and suggested that 48 multi-fuel buses would be inducted in the first phase on five different intra-city routes. Suggested fares varied between Rs30 and Rs50 depending on the route, and during peak hours, the buses would leave their terminals at five-minute intervals, reducing to every 15 minutes during off-peak hours.
Detailed feasibility study
A CDA Planning Wing officer requesting anonymity said that the ADB had let city managers know that the funds required to carry out a detailed feasibility study had already been allocated by the bank. “The ADB estimates US$0.8 million will be needed for a detailed study. Out of that amount, $0.25 million has been approved by the bank in the first phase. Now they are waiting for our response,” the source said.
While submitting prefeasibility study with the authority, the ADB offered the CDA a multi-tranche loan to support the BRT project. The bank has shown its willingness to provide a loan up to 80 per cent of the total cost of the project.
“The Planning Commission of Pakistan has recently written to the CDA chairman about the loan offered by the ADB to ask for the CDA’s consent,” CDA Spokesperson Ramzan Sajid said.
“The terms and conditions offered by the ADB will be discussed at the second stage of the project, and if found viable, the option will certainly be considered,” Sajid said, adding the authority was also considering initiating the project on public-private partnership basis.
Issues with Punjab Government
The prefeasibility study was only carried out for Islamabad as the Punjab government had refused to become part of the project. The expectation was that connecting the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad would make the project more profitable.
However, the new BRT cell has been asked to contact the Punjab Transport secretary and other relevant groups in an effort to include Rawalpindi in the project.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2013.