The Lahore Transport Company is considering offering the most lucrative bus route in the city to a Chinese company about to start operations here even though a local company is currently running buses on the route.
Route No 1 runs from RA Bazaar to Sanda near Bund Road and is run by the First Bus Service. Thousands of commuters use it daily to get to government buildings and private offices as well as schools, colleges and universities on The Mall. The route is also kept clear of motorcycle and two-stroke rickshaws, which are often accused by bus companies of stealing their customers.
An LTC official told The Express Tribune that the management would probably award the route to the Foton Bus Company (FTC), which is to start operations in Lahore this month. He said that the LTC had engaged in lengthy negotiations with the Chinese company, in which Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and LTC chief Khawaja Hassaan had also been involved.
“An international company will always want the main routes and that was the case here too,” he said. “There is no comparison between the Chinese and local company ... the government will always give preference to the Chinese company.”
LTC spokesman Amjad Hussain said no final decision on the issue had been made yet. He said that the LTC would facilitate all bus companies. He said a lack of buses meant that many commuters were forced to arrange their own transport. “Once quality bus services start their operations, the number of public transport users will definitely increase,” he added.
The First Bus Service won Route No 1 a year ago after the LTC took it away from New Khan Bus Service, which had operated there for over a decade, because it could not run the required number of buses on the route or keep its vehicles road worthy. The FBS is also currently operating just 15 buses on the route, when it is supposed to run at least 32. However, it has imported 20 buses from China which are currently at Karachi port and are to arrive in Lahore next week.
FBS Chief Executive Officer Muhammad Dastgeer said that the government would not be easily able to give the route to Foton since they had a signed agreement with the LTC in this regard. He said he had not heard of plans to award the route to the Chinese company.
FBS General Manager Maqsoodul Haq said he had not heard the plan either, but the FBS would oppose it. He said that the LTC had started a Coaster service on the route a few months ago that had hurt their business. “We have yet to receive the subsidy for buses operated on this route since January this year. We are owed a total of Rs13.8 million in subsidies on Route No 1,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th, 2011.