Nineteen buses are to be added to the Metro Bus fleet of 45 by the end of June as demand for the new bus service has exceeded expectations in the provincial capital.
The Metro Bus has been inundated with passengers since its opening on February 10. Those behind the project had expected the crowds to thin out after the initial excitement of travelling on the shiny new 27-km bus corridor and elevated track wore off. But the crowds did not thin out and some 120,000 people a day on average are using the bus service.
The Punjab Metro Bus Authority (PMBA) ordered 19 new buses around a month after the inauguration. The buses from China Volvo are to arrive in Karachi by June 20, and in Lahore some 10 days later.
“We ordered new buses because of the high passenger load,” said PMBA General Manager (Operations) Uzair Shah.
The expansion of the fleet would mean that the buses wouldn’t always be so packed, he added.
Some 45 buses are operational on the bus-only track on Ferozepur Road. But the authorities have been unable so far to run a smart traffic signalling system at the eight junctions where the bus must interact with general traffic. As a result, the PMBA has struggled to run the buses at fixed intervals as planned.
Lines 2 and 3
The PMBA recently received a feasibility report from Turkish company Ulasim for a second potential Metro Bus line from Thokar Niaz Beg to MAO College along Multan Road, a length of 12.6 kilometres.
Ulasim is also working on a feasibility study for a third line from Azadi Chowk to the Ring Road via the City Railway Station and Daroghewala along GT Road. The report is due in some 30 days.
Shah, the PMBA general manager, said that the report for line 2 was a preliminary one and it would likely undergo several changes, so he did not wish to share it.
He said that the new Punjab government would decide which route to start work on first.
Passengers on the Metro Bus are currently charged a flat rate of Rs20 per journey. A PMBA official said that the authority would advise the new government to set destination-specific fares, along the lines of the rates notified by the Lahore Transport Authority.
According to the LTA rates, the maximum ticket price would be Rs36 for travelling the length of the 27km track.
Shah said that the new government would decide whether to revise the rates or not.
He said that cards had been introduced for regular travellers in February shortly after the bus service was inaugurated.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2013.
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