LAHORE: The Punjab government may be putting in its best efforts to improve the public transport infrastructure of Lahore through huge investments, but the miseries of commuters continue. Passengers of both the Lahore Metro Bus network and private buses are equally unhappy with services.
Commuters of the new air-conditioned buses, plying on 14 feeder routes of the Lahore Metro Bus, are also continuously complaining about the complex smartcard-based, e-ticketing system.
A regular passenger of the new service, Muhammad Amir, tells The Express Tribune that passengers have to literally beg conductors to let them come onboard as they cannot afford a Rs200 smartcard.
“The other day, an aged housemaid touched the conductor’s feet to get herself aboard a feeder bus,” he recalled. “The woman, dressed in rags, complained she worked as a housemaid and could not afford the Rs200 plastic card for travelling. She claimed that she scarcely earned Rs3,000 to Rs4,000 a month after sweeping floors and cleaning dishes in different houses.”
“I am sure the Punjab chief minister and officers sitting in air-conditioned offices of the Punjab Mass-transit Authority (PMA) cannot identify with the miseries of an old housemaid who was begging a conductor in the scorching summer heat.”
Amir says the conductor expressed his sympathy with the old woman and that was when passengers urged him to violate the official code of the smartcard to allow the old woman onboard.
Another passenger Bilal Khan complained his uncle comes to visit relatives from Charsadda. “Earlier, he used to easily reach his destination for free as the government offered free rides for senior citizens and people with special needs on private buses run by Lahore Transport Company (LTC).”
Now, however, the government has withdrawn the private buses to make the feeders more successful and there is no exception in fare for senior citizens or the differently abled. “My uncle is a labourer who works on a daily wage. It is impossible for him to buy a Rs200 smartcard as he hardly comes for two days,” Bilal says.
A Lahore Transport Company bus passenger, Hassan, complained that temperatures were continuously increasing at this time of the year but most but operators were reluctant to switch on the air-conditioners. “Just to save on fuel costs, bus operators are adding to the passenger’s miseries in this scorching heat,” he says.
An LTC spokesperson said it was the law that they could not run a bus or minibus on routes parallel to the Lahore Metro Bus network. “It was the government’s decision to remove all public buses from Metro Bus’s feeder routes to make the new service viable, but it has created great inconveniences for passengers,” he said. “The company has received dozens of complaints about the short routes of feeder buses that increased passenger hardships.”
He added the company was considering restarting plying of buses of on old route with little overlapping as public complaints were on the rise. “This is earning a bad name for the government which has invested heavily in public transport infrastructure,” he added.
Responding to a question, he said the company ordered all bus operators to start air-conditioners from March 15 and the LTC enforcement team was in field to check compliance. “Passengers can also lodge a complaint and the company will definitely resolve the issue,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2017.