Overspending, subsidies, commuters: Peshawar BRT’s 3 years


PESHAWAR: After years of criticising mass transit projects of his opponents, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government itself initiated a mass transit project in 2017 that was finally inaugurated by chairman PTI himself three years ago in 2020 on this day.

The project was initiated during the final year of the tenure of former KP chief minister Pervez Khattak’s government.

The Peshawar BRT project, launched with an initial budget of Rs49 billion, was supposed to be completed within six months but it dragged for almost two-and-a-half-year, incurring a cost of around Rs70 billion before it was operationalised.

The Peshawar BRT was made operational, during the second government of the PTI led by former chief minister Mahmood Khan, despite the fact that work on significant components such as the main corridor and several stations was yet to be completed.

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While over Rs1 trillion have been spent on the Peshawar BRT project till date, the subsidised transportation service, marred by disputes and allegations of corruption, has completed three years of journey.

Notwithstanding these challenges, the project has achieved several successes during its three-year journey.

Though work on the BRT project, including the main corridor and stations, was yet to be completed and about a year prior to the commencement of operation, buses were imported from China, which remained parked at the BRT terminal for a year. Incidents of fires were also reported in several buses soon after the commencement of the bus service.

Peshawar BRT spokesperson Sadaf Kamil told HUM News English that currently, approximately 316,000 passengers including over 80,000 women travel in BRT buses daily. She said that over 3,000 individuals have been provided employment within the project during this period.

The spokesperson claimed that the BRT bus service has been recognised internationally, securing accolades such as the Gold Standard, Sustainable Transport, Prize for Citizens and Smart Ticketing.

Sadaf Kamil said that the inclusion of 18,000 registered users in the “Zu Bicycle Sharing System” and the successful integration of the Zu system with Google Maps marks yet another achievement.

Despite facing economic difficulties, successive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has provided over Rs6 billion in subsidies to run the bus services, with the BRT spokesperson emphasising that “the project is designed for the public’s convenience, and government subsidies are vital to ease the financial burden of the citizens.”

The construction of parking and shopping plazas were also part of the project but it could not see the light of day when the BRT was made operational, and they remain unfinished to this day. Additionally, a cycling route alongside the BRT corridor was also supposed to be established, which, however, remains incomplete as of now.

Sources said that despite incurring a cost exceeding Rs1 trillion, the shortage of funds are the main reasons behind the BRT project’s incomplete status.

During the four-month fiscal budget, the caretaker KP government allocated Rs1 billion for the BRT project in subsidy. However, due to economic challenges, the task of running the service is becoming a formidable challenge the interim setup to release the funds, the sources said.

Amid a cost exceeding a billion rupees, the company responsible for operating the bus service has written letters to the KP caretaker chief minister in the past two months, seeking release of funds. The company has also issued threats to halt operation of the bus service over the past two months.

According to sources, with the recent expansion of the BRT fleet, the mass transit project is anticipated to require an additional subsidy. Nevertheless, this situation poses a significant challenge for the economically burdened province.

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