Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat has announced that the intra-city public service vehicles (PSVs) would run with 50 per cent capacity only. Talking to media on Tuesday, he said route permits for inter-city vans were being reduced to 70 from 100 to curb the coronavirus transmission to other cities from the federal capital.
Acknowledging the violations of anti-Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) committed by some public transporters in Islamabad, he said strict action was being taken against them to ensure commuters' safety. The DC said the PSVs with more than 20 seats would be mandated to ply on the city's roads with only 10 passengers.
He mentioned the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration was taking serious cognizance of the violations at bus stands, ensuring mask-wearing and use of hand sanitiser at each and every terminal. Shafqaat maintained that the prime focus of the administration was on the pursuance of Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions.
Administrative actions such as smart lockdown, implementation of SOPs, sealing of hot spots and 50 per cent attendance at all offices were being taken to curb the spread of the virus amid its third wave, the DC stated. The administration had already sealed multiple areas in the federal capital whereas more localities for smart lockdown are under consideration, he added.
Shafqaat said that constant monitoring of public transport in various areas such as Tarlai, Tramri, Bhara Kahu and different Sectors of G series is under way. Meanwhile, residents of the twin cities have complained about the slackness of transporters not ensuring the coronavirus health guidelines in order to mint money.
Metro service suspended
The Metro Bus Service’s (MBS) Rawalpindi section from Saddar station to IJP station has been shut down to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. However, the service in the Islamabad section from IJP station to Secretariat station will operate as usual, a spokesperson said.
Due to a lack of coordination at the federal level, the MBS management remained in a quandary over the complete closure of the service after the Punjab government announced its closure on Monday. The measure was taken after a high Covid-positivity rate was recorded in nine districts of Punjab, including Rawalpindi.
The officials said that the Islamabad administration did not ask to halt the bus service in the federal capital, therefore, the service was not suspended. They added that the number of passengers had dropped significantly and they were being accommodated by implementing social distancing protocols.
The bus management also said that they would review the situation of the Islamabad section on Wednesday (today) and the future course of action would be decided accordingly after consultation with Metro Bus Authority (MBA).
It should be noted that the metro bus hauls between 110,000 and 125,000 passengers between the twin cities, daily. Due to its partial closure, the passengers who travel between Rawalpindi and Islamabad faced difficulties.
Furthermore, a meeting was held under the chairmanship of Regional Transport Authority (RTA) Secretary Rashid Ali and Rawalpindi Chief Traffic Officer (CTO) Rai Mazhar Iqbal to implement the ban on intra-city transport. RTA and City Traffic Police (CTP) impounded 80 vehicles plying in the city despite a ban, a spokesperson added, while 92 transporters were penalised Rs96,000 for violating SOPs.
RTA secretary said that the Punjab government has decided to close intra-city public transport on urban routes which is being strictly enforced. He added that joint teams of RTA and CTP have been formed for enforcement of restrictions and monitoring while an awareness campaign in this regard is also being run.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2021.