The Tourism Development Corporation Punjab (TDCP) is negotiating with a firm that runs the Diplomatic Shuttle Service (DSS) for launching the Punjab government’s proposed bus service to Murree from the federal capital.
In May this year, TDCP had sought expressions of interest from firms interested in undertaking the project which has been titled the Murree Shuttle Service. The last date for submission of documents was June 16.
Only two firms, Daewoo and DSS, had showed an interest to run the project, Commissioner Rawalpindi Zahid Saeed said, adding that after thorough scrutiny of documents, DSS qualified for the next phase.
Within this week, a meeting is expected to be held with the contractor firm to finalise the arrangement, he said. Saeed said initially a fleet of 10 buses would be introduced on the route between Islamabad and Murree.
Diplomatic Shuttle Service
DSS was launched in 2005 by a private company to facilitate visa applicants in entering the highly-fortified Diplomatic Enclave in Sector G-5.
The firm got media attention in 2009 when it started charging relatively high fares from its customers visiting foreign missions.
The matter was also investigated by a judicial commission formed by the Islamabad High Court to scrutinise affairs of the Capital Development Authority (CDA). The commission had accused the firm for overcharging passengers.
It came to light that CDA had leased 4.5 acres of land belonging to the civic agency along 3rd Avenue to the firm against a meagre amount of Rs44,000 per year. Once details of the controversial deal between CDA and DSS leaked out, the issue was probed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and most recently the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly headed by Opposition Leader Khurshid Shah.
Shah had directed FIA and NAB to reinitiate separate inquires into the issue in April 2014 besides directing the CDA to cancel the agreement with DSS. However, when investigation agencies initiated a probe into the matter, the record of the deal went missing from CDA’s offices.
While a senior official of the authority had also claimed that CDA initiated the process of cancellation of the deal, but it is yet to be done.
At present, without comprehending the consequences of its move, TDCP is going to forge a contract with the controversial firm.
New SOPs for travelling to Murree
The Rawalpindi District Regional Transport Authority has already enforced new standard operating procedures (SOPs) for transport vehicles travelling to Murree ahead of the launch of Punjab’s shuttle service.
The SOP’s, which are yet to be completely enforced, provide for a complete ban on entry of public buses to Murree that are more than nine metres in length.
When asked about the implementation of the new SOP’s, Saeed said they have already been implemented partially.
“This year, the District Regional Transport Authority did not issue a single special route permit to transporters for running buses to Murree that are more than nine metres in length,” Saeed said, adding that the transport authority used to issue special permissions to transporters during peak seasons.
As it is, there is a ban on entry of nine-metre-long buses to Murree carrying school and college students, he said, adding that the authority was also planning to divert long vehicles to Murree Expressway to ease traffic on the old route to Murree from Islamabad.
He said as soon the Murree Shuttle Service is made functional, the SOPs would be fully endorsed.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th,2014.
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