PESHAWAR: The mass transit project being built in Peshawar got a Rs19.5 billion boost on Tuesday after France agreed to provide a soft loan for the project.
Federal Economic Affairs Division (EAD) Secretary Noor Ahmad, French Ambassador Marc Barety and the French Agency for Development (FAD) Country Director Jacky Amprou signed the credit facility agreement worth Rs19.5 billion (130 million Euros) for financing the Peshawar Sustainable Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Corridor Project.
“The project will provide safe, efficient and well-integrated mass transit system, improving energy efficiency and air quality through reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,” read a statement issued by the French Embassy in Islamabad on Tuesday.
It added that the project will contribute to the Pakistani government’s strategy in urban services and economic development.
France, through FAD, is working to provide technical and financial support to develop low-carbon infrastructure.
“To date, FAD has committed 880-million-euro financial support, while this project is opening new avenues for collaboration in the urban development sector,” the statement read.
Earlier, the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) referred the project to the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) for approval after revising its cost upwards to Rs68 billion from initial estimates of Rs56 billion – the provincial government had further revised this figure downwards to Rs49 billion.
The project had been designed to provide a high-quality mass transit facility which would promote urban development, activities and density along the BRT corridor, thus improving economic growth besides giving access to the city.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Transport Secretary Kamran Rehman Khan, meanwhile, told The Express Tribune that the loan will not affect the total cost of the project.
He added that they had been trying to secure a loan for the purchase of environment-friendly buses for the project but the move was delayed.
"But we have got it [loan] now, " he said.
Work on the BRT project had started in October 2017 with an ambitious deadline of April 2018, ahead of the general elections.
This deadline, though, was first pushed back to May 20.
After July 25, 2018, general elections, officials had said that the project could be completed by the year-end. But that deadline too was pushed back to 2019.
Even though a soft loan from France has been secured to procure buses, last year in May, TransPeshawar — the urban mobility company which will operate the buses — received a shipment of the first prototype hybrid bus for the project. According to Asian Development Bank estimates, the Peshawar BRT will reduce 31,000 tonnes of Co2 emissions after implementation when compared to the existing transport system of Peshawar. Further, these buses are wifi-enabled with AVL (Automatic Vehicle Location) facility –to track the real-time location of a bus.
The 12-metre-long bus was to be one of the 220 buses which are planned to operate along the main BRT corridor and on the direct service (feeder).
Of these, 155 will be the ‘smaller’ 12-metre-long variants while 65 will be the ‘longer’ 18-metre-long variants.
The prototype bus was manufactured in China and was sent to Peshawar to test how it handles in the city.
With low floor and ramps, the BRT buses are capable enough to handle people with disabilities. As per the cultural needs of the region, the buses also have separate compartments for women.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2019.