PESHAWAR: The provincial government has once again requested the federal railway ministry to lease surplus land along a railway track in the city for 10 years for the Mass Transit Transport Service.
An official privy to the matter told The Express Tribune on Thursday the Senate committee was willing to lease land on both sides of a railway track that runs from Nasirpur to Karkhano Market.
“However, the ministry is not taking interest in the project due to political differences and a clash of priorities,” he said.
According to the official, the provincial government had set aside funds required for the project.
“Once the project has been completed, it will benefit everyone,” he added.
Speaking about the mass transit project, the official said it aimed to facilitate millions of people who travel to and from the city.
“The new initiative will cater to their needs by building a road for buses and cars,” he said. “Furthermore, the project seeks to reduce traffic congestion on the streets of Peshawar.”
The project is estimated to cost Rs18 billion.
The provincial government has already paid Rs20 million to Board of Investment to conduct a survey and prepare a feasibility report on the project.
Several meetings have been held between the federal and provincial governments in the past to discuss the project. The Centre had referred the matter to the minister for railways and subsequently to a Senate committee.
The official said two committees have been constituted to chalk out a viable strategy to lease the land.
“One of the committees represents the railway ministry while the other will represent the provincial government,” he added.
According to the official, the committee which represents the government held a meeting on July 6.
“During the moot, the committee decided if the railway ministry does not approve the request, it would refer the matter to the Senate committee once again,” he said. “A meeting between both committees has been scheduled for July 14 in Islamabad.”
According to the official, the railway minister has been repeatedly approached to discuss the lease of surplus land along the railway track.
“However, the requests have been denied as the ministry is planning a railway line between Peshawar and Jalalabad,” he said. “Traffic engineers believe the mass transit project will not affect this plan. However, I think the ministry will not be able to start the Peshawar-Jalalabad project any time soon as it does not have adequate funding.”
The official said clashes of priority are causing delays in leasing the land to the provincial government.
In a meeting held earlier this month, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif offered Chief Minister Pervez Khattak financial assistance to complete the transit project.
“However, Khattak refused to accept financial assistance and asked the prime minister to persuade the railway ministry to lease the land instead,” he said. “As a result, the matter was referred to the railway ministry.”
When contacted, Additional Transport Secretary Mazhar Sajjad hoped the railway ministry would accept the K-P government’s request and lease the surplus land.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2015.