The inauguration of the Metro Bus Service, which was due to take place on January 27, is to be delayed for up to a month due to work on the bus stations, The Express Tribune has learnt.
While the bus corridor and 8-kilometre elevated track are largely complete, some 20 bus stations are still under construction, engineers and officials said.
Though the Punjab government maintains that the extensive MBS infrastructure is being built rapidly, a series of deadlines set by the chief minister for the project’s completion have been missed, starting with October 30.
Officials of the Lahore Transport Company (LTC) and the Traffic Engineering and Planning Agency (Tepa) said it was up to the chief minister to decide a new date for the project’s inauguration, but they estimated that it would be finished as early as February 10, or as late as the end of next month.
The MBS will run between Gajju Mata and Shahdara. The bus corridor and bus stations from Gajju Mata to Kalma Chowk are finished, but much work still remains on the bus stations for the elevated track.
The first bus station on the elevated track, starting at Muslim Town and heading towards Qurtaba Chowk, is being built by Saadullah Khan and Brothers (SKB). It is missing staircases and entrances. Currently, workers are fitting tiles and building the aluminum roof. The next station at Ichhra, also being built by SKB, is in a more advanced stage, with part of the staircase installed.
Site engineer Ghulam Mujtaba of the SKB said that the stations would be finished by February 10. He said that they were working round the clock at full speed. “The end of a construction project becomes painstaking … a lot of precision is required,” he said.
The next four stations along the elevated track are being built by ZKB Constructions and work on the staircases, floor tiles and roof is underway. Muhammad Omer, site engineer for one of the stations, said that they would be finished in February.
A joint venture of IKAN Engineering and Habib Construction is responsible for three bus stations on the elevated track. Two stations, at the Secretariat and the DCO’s office, are almost complete, while the third at Data Darbar required a great deal of work. Site engineer Muhammad Imran Chaudhry said that they would be finished in the first week of February. He said that escalators for the three stations would soon be installed and this would take no more than four or five days.
Stations between Data Darbar and Shahdara will require another 10-15 days of work, said Tepa officials. They said that there were 14 bus stations on the stretch between Gajju Mata and Kalma Chowk. All of them, except the station at Kalma Chowk, are to be fitted with four escalators each: one each on either side of the road to take bus users up to the pedestrian walkway, and one each from the bus stops, or inner corridor, going up to the walkway on either side. Twenty-two of the 26 escalators for the corridor have been fitted and are being tested. Escalators from the footpath at Naseerabad, Model Town and Ittefaq Hospital are currently being installed, with the rest yet to start. The station at Kalma Chowk will have entrances at ground level as two underpasses are being built there.
The Tepa officials estimated that the opening of the MBS could be delayed by 20 days and the inauguration would take place near the end of February.
Tepa Chief Engineer Muhammad Saeed Akhtar said that he was not aware of any new inauguration date given by the Punjab government. He was hopeful that the project would be completed in the opening days of February.
He said that the escalators for the bus stations were outdoor escalators “which will be able to take a beating”. He said that the total cost of the project was around Rs30 billion.
LTC Chairman Khawaja Ahmad Hassaan said he did not know when the project would be inaugurated. “Any new deadline will be given by the chief minister himself,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2013.