Police have been deployed at every stop on the Metro Bus route to handle the problems caused by a surfeit of ‘joy riders’ and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has instructed the Lahore Transport Company (LTC) to propose a suitable fare to end these problems.
After the chaos on Metro buses on Monday, the situation did not greatly improve on Tuesday. Buses packed with people enjoying the free ride still did not stop at several stations and many who had destinations to reach remained stranded for hours. Armed with batons, the police tried to hold back crowds and several brawls broke out in the effort. As many as 40 buses plied the route on Tuesday as five buses were still away for repairs.
Mujahid Force SP Romail Akram said around 800 policemen were deployed on Metro Bus stations. He said the deployment had initially been ordered for a week. SP Akram told The Express Tribune that 15 men at every station will keep troublemakers in check.
He said they will operate in two shifts. He said these officials will not carry firearms as their job was primarily to provide guidance.
However the commuters were not very pleased with these officials. Many were seen quarrelling with officials to let them on the already crowded buses. Several women complained to the police about being harassed on the buses.
A woman at Ichhra station who refused to reveal her name said it was unfair there was no gender segregation on these buses.
She said a group of rowdy youngsters at the back of a packed bus had been rude to her throughout her travel. Commuters stranded on the route said they did not have alternative transport. Many of them requested the government to charge a fare. “Why should we suffer for a political stunt,” one said.
Senator Pervez Rashid, spokesman for the provincial government, told The Express Tribune that Sharif had instructed the LTC to recommend suitable fare to exclude troublemakers.
LTC Chairman Khawaja Ahmad Hasaan said the situation had improved after the first day. He said the free service might just continue for a month. He said teams headed by political leaders were trying to educate people regarding the negative impact of ‘joy rides’ on the bus. He predicted that the phenomenon out in a few days. “People here have seen this type of bus service for the first time … They are only expressing their joy,” he said.
Hasaan said meetings would be held daily to assess the situation. He said they would also discuss the possibility of setting a fare. “Joy riders would be encouraged not to travel during rush hours,” he said.
The busses have not been designed to allow gender segregation, he said. When asked whether Muhammad Ashiq, a 45-year old man who broke his leg when he got stuck in a bus door, would receive compensation, Hasaan said he was not aware of the matter.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2013.
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