December 7, 2021

Expect More Delays For The Bus To The Airport

Islamabad — The Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metrobus track from Peshawar Mor to the new Islamabad airport is likely to face more delays.

Construction on the extension project, which started in 2017, is struggling due to shortage of funds.

Minister for Communications Murad Saeed told the National Assembly the government only allocated around a quarter of the amount required to complete the project in 2019-20.

“The most important reason (for the slow pace of construction) is lack of funds,” Mr. Saeed told legislators during the question hour on 11 November.

He was responding to a query from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz lawmaker Mueen Wattoo about the reasons for slow construction and the expected completion date of the project.

Cars drive on the Kashmir Highway underneath a pedestrian bridge for a partially completed Metrobus station near Sector G-9. The station will be one of several on a new track that will link the city to the airport by bus. Photo: Waqas Naeem

Mr. Saeed said the project consists of four “packages” that require altogether Rs. 4.57 billion for completion. However, the Public Service Development Programme (PSDP) 2019-20 provided a grant of only Rs. 1.25 billion for the project, according to the minister.

The current allocation is also only half of the funds set aside for the project in 2018-19, according to details published by the ministry of planning in October 2018.

If the government does not increase annual allocations, the project might not be completed until 2022.

All this is happening while the project appears to have saved nearly Rs. 4 billion in costs, according to a recent Dawn news report. The expenditure carried forward to 2019-20 for the project is Rs. 7.47 billion. But the NHA has only requested for Rs. 4.57 billion, out of which one billion will be used to service pending payments to contractors.

The dedicated bus corridor of the Metrobus service (left) on the Kashmir Highway opposite Sector G-9. The track will link Islamabad city to the new airport on the Western suburbs. Photo: Waqas Naeem

The 25.6-kilometre Metrobus track will connect the Pakistan Metrobus Service to the New Islamabad International Airport from the Peshawar Mor station, providing much-needed public transport access to the airport on the city’s Western suburbs.

The PC-1, or main planning document, for the Metro Bus track was approved by the National Highway Authority (NHA) in February 2017 with a cost of Rs. 16.4 billion. The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approval was granted in April 2017 and construction began within a month with an ambitious target to complete the project by August that year.

Around Rs. 9 billion was spent on construction of the Metrobus extension up until 30 June 2019, according to the PSDP 2019-20 document. Signs of partial construction are obvious on the Kashmir Highway, with bus station structures and a dedicated bus corridor. The project’s first package or section runs from Peshawar Mor to Golra Mor. The second section will connect the bus track from Golra Mor to the Grand Trunk Road interchange. The third and fourth sections will link to the airport via the Motorway interchange.

In a letter written by NHA Chairman Captain (Retd.) Sikandar Qayyum about pending bill payments to project contractors, it is mentioned that 95 percent and 86 percent physical work is complete on the first and second packages respectively.

But 30 months after construction began, the entire bus line is still not operational.

Minister Saeed, whose communications ministry looks over NHA infrastructure projects, remained optimistic, however.

He said the NHA had written to the planning ministry through the communications ministry to highlight the funds constraint.

“NHA is committed to complete the subject project in time,” Mr. Saeed said, during the assembly session. “(It) is expected that infrastructure construction of the said project shall be completed by the end of March 2020 subject to no further delay in release of funds.”

Read the documents presented by Mr. Saeed to the National Assembly as part of his answer:

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