PESHAWAR: With the provincial government hoping that the BRT does for them what the Metro Bus project in Punjab did for the PML-N in the last general elections, a senior engineer working on the project in Peshawar has warned against constant tinkering in the design of the project to make sure it is completed on time.
When work on it first started in October last year, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Chief Minister Pervez Khattak had promised that the project would be completed within six months. But as that deadline nears, the project looks far from being complete.
The Project Management and Construction Supervision Consultant (PMCSC) for the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project have written a letter to the director general of the Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) stating that the contractor working on building the project must be given a clear sense of direction to complete his work.
“The continuous amendments to the design of various aspects of the Peshawar BRT project is seriously jeopardising the completion of the Peshawar Sustainable BRT Project within the specified time limits,” the letter warns, adding that not only are the extensive design changes causing setbacks, the time it takes the government machinery to approve these changes was even more agonising — as it alluded to the lack of any decision-making power of the chief engineer.
Khattak has been pushing the private contractor and other government bodies working on the BRT to complete the Rs49.3 billion project by April 20 so that he can inaugurate it before the end of his tenure. But constant changes have made the task of achieving that target impossible.
The letter, written by an engineer of the private consultancy firm contracted for the project adds, “Neither timely approvals are forthcoming from the approving agencies nor are the conceptual designs, being provided by others for major design amendments, are — in nearly all instances — workable for one reason or another, and require reworking according to site conditions before being buildable.”
The firm has asked the government to intervene and put a halt to any further design amendments so that the contractor and the government can concentrate on completing the project without any unnecessary distraction.
In just the six months since the government started work on the project, the project design has been changed at 11 different points.
As a result, work on several sections of the project has yet to get underway such as work on the Gulbahar flyover.
The government had initially decided to build a BRT corridor here at ground level. However, the designers later realised that this would rob Gulbahar and Sikandpur residents of key U-turns while the existing Arbab Sikandar Khan Khalil flyover would lose its utility. The design was hence altered.
Similarly, work on the Level-II Pir Zakori Bridge has yet to start. Construction of the elevated corridor in Tehkal was decided months after the civil work on the project kicked-off.
Later, with work on an underpass at Aman Chowk almost complete, it had to be dismantled and rebuilt owing to design flaws. Moreover, the government has now decided to make a station at Karkhano Market.
Officials working on the project say that the constant changes in the design are not only delaying the project but are also adding to its cost.
“At the moment, the cost is still Rs49.3 billion, but it will certainly increase by about a billion or more because of the additional elevated portions which were added later,” the official said, adding that even with everyone working on the project being pushed to their limit, the April 20 deadline seems almost impossible to meet.
“Officials have started to squabble in meetings as the deadline looms,” said a senior government official dealing the matter. He pointed to a brawl between the PDA director general and DIG traffic during a recent meeting on devising a traffic management plan.
The official divulged that an irate DIG Traffic had turned around to lambast PDA chief of focusing on BRT project and completing it as soon as possible.
“People have started to realise that the deadline is not going to be met, thus they have started skipping meetings,” said the official.
PDA admits delays
Meanwhile, PDA Director General Israrul Haq has admitted that the project is facing delays and that people should not expect it before May 20, a month over its prescribed deadline.
“Our deadline for the contractor is April 20, and we are pushing [hard] to achieve it. If it gets late it will not be more than a month,” Haq said as he insisted that they were doing all they can to meet the deadline.
Referring to the changes, Haq termed them as ‘minor’.
“You make changes even while building a small bathroom in your home, this, though, is a mega project and it will certainly undergo structural changes,” he stated matter-of-factly.
The PDA chief added that work on the Pir Zakori Bridge is expected to start in a day or two and the project will be completed within three months. However, he was quick to clarify that the bridge is not a part of BRT, thus it will not affect that project’s overall completion deadline.
He also admitted that the cost of the BRT project will rise due to the design changes, but he tried to downplay them by terming them ‘nominal escalation which promises more benefits’.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2018.