Public transport: Out with the old, in with the refurbished

Govt to subsidise bus repairs as investors shy away from public transport.

Anwer Sumra September 04, 2011


The Punjab government has decided to refurbish 300 off-road buses at a cost of Rs400,000 each as it struggles to attract investment in the city’s collapsing public transport system.

A proposal for the award of the contract for the repair of the buses to the National Logistics Cell (NLC) will likely be approved soon, an official familiar with the development told The Express Tribune. He said there were no plans to invite bids for the contract.

There are only 375 buses running in Lahore. In January 2009, the Punjab government announced plans to import thousands of new buses. Two years later, no new buses have arrived, despite the Lahore Transport Company (LTC) offering subsidies of Rs1 million per diesel bus and Rs1.2 million per CNG bus.

In June 2011, the LTC finally signed an agreement with a Chinese company for 300 new buses and the first batch of 111 was to arrive in August. But that too has been delayed. LTC chairman Khawaja Ahmed Hassaan said that a team of government experts would visit China next week for a pre-shipment inspection. He said the first batch of air-conditioned CNG buses   76, not 111   would arrive on September 15.

A Finance Department official said that the Chinese company had several concerns about the profitability of the venture. One concern was the availability of cheap rickshaws and vans and the lack of government action to remove them from bus routes. Another was the lack of a regulatory mechanism to facilitate investors, and the power of “the transport mafia”, the official said.

Hassaan said that transport companies had asked the Punjab government to help with the repair of a large number of off-road buses. He said that no contract had been awarded. The government had sent the NLC two buses to refurbish to create a template of minimum acceptable improvement for the other buses, he said. The owners would inspect the repaired buses and could then select any company to repair their vehicles, provided they did the essential repairs done by the NLC.

The government would pay up to Rs400,000 per bus. Any expense beyond that would be borne by the owner. He said that the LTC had also made an arrangement with SNGPL guaranteeing the supply of CNG to buses. He said 411 new and refurbished buses would be introduced in the city within a year.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2011.

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