LAHORE: The Lahore Transport Company established in 2009 after the signing of several memoranda of understanding (MoUs) to import 300 CNG buses till June 2009 has yet to deliver anything concrete.
Of the five investors who signed the MoUs, one imported 31 buses by the deadline. Malik Maqbool, the investor, complained however that routes marked for buses were already being serviced by motorcycle rickshaws and mini buses. These, he said, were backed by influential mafias including government officials. He said that it seemed that the Transport Department had no control over them.
Tasneem Noorani, made the LTC chairman in April 2009 in management professional scale-I (MP-I), resigned from the post last week. Talking to The Express Tribune, he said he had quit due to personal reasons. He, however, refused to comment on the LTC’s inability to keep the investors on board for the import of 300 CNG buses till June 2009.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had announced a 25 per cent subsidy on every CNG bus imported under the policy. A total of Rs35 billion was allocated for subsidies. Meanwhile, the Transport Department signed an MoU with a Chinese company for the import of 2,000 buses in the province. The MoU was later revoked.
Since April 2008, the chief minister has transferred and posted four secretaries in the transport department, the highest in any government department. Aga Nadeem was replaced by Maroof Afzal. Next in line were Hashim Khan Tareen and Shahzad Cheema. Muhammad Yousaf now heads the department.
Owing to the lack of interest shown by investors in importing CNG buses, the LTC early in 2010 decided to import 300 diesel buses to relieve the pressure on public transport in the city.
An official in the Transport Department said that investors were reluctant to spend money because of the ‘Transport Mafia’. He said they felt that the regulatory mechanisms were very weak as motorcycle rickshaws and mini buses under patronage of the mafia plied on most routes.
He said that the LTC had signed MoUs to give an impression that it was performing its duties. He added that former chairman Noorani had made several foreign tours to attract investors but to no avail. He said investors were concerned about the fluctuations in fuel prices, the transport mafia and the poor infrastructure.
The provincial government in May 2010 signed seven MoUs with three Turkish companies and an investor each from Iran, Britain and Canada. Besides, he said, it held negotiations with three local investors.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2010.