RAWALPINDI: The Punjab government has decided to increase the metro bus service fare in Rawalpindi and Lahore from Rs20 to Rs30. The increase will be implemented in July with the start of the new fiscal year.
A senior Punjab Masstransit Authority (PMA) official told Dawn that the provincial government was giving the PMA a Rs1.9 billion annual subsidy to keep the fare at Rs20 per person from Saddar, Rawalpindi, to Pakistan Secretariat, Islamabad.
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He said the new provincial government wanted to increase bus fares last year, but did not do so after public criticism. It has now approved the increase and clubbed it with budget proposals presented in the Punjab Assembly on June 14.
New fares to be implemented on Rawalpindi-Islamabad route and in Lahore; govt has clubbed increase with budget
PMA General Manager Operations Uzair Shah admitted that the government has decided to increase bus fares from Rs20 to Rs30, and clubbed the proposal with the budget.
He said the new fare would be implemented formally from July 1, and would earn the PMA Rs800 million. Mr Shah said the flat rate was fixed, because the PMA believed that a stop to stop fare would increase the burden on the public and lead to a fall in passengers.
The new fare will be implemented on the Rawalpindi-Islamabad route and in Lahore, but not in Multan. The government will notify the increase in fares after the provincial budget is approved.
Mr Shah said that the PMA had received Rs1.9bn annually as a subsidy for the Rawalpindi-Islamabad service.
“In the last three years, the metro bus service has transported more than 52 million passengers, which is a good response,” he said.
The present system of the metro bus service is ideal, he added, as it attracts passengers and the service runs smoothly.
“At present, 110,000 passengers travel through the metro bus service between Rawalpindi and Islamabad every day,” he said.
“This is the beginning of the increase in fares, and the government will increase the fare of the transport service between Rawalpindi and Islamabad further in the coming days to meet their heavy expenses from the earning source,” PPP Rawalpindi chapter spokesperson Nasir Mir told Dawn.
He said the government has imposed high taxes on the public and made lives miserable, adding that the provincial government has to provide relief and continue the subsidy.
Former PML-N MNA Malik Shakil Awan said that in its last year, the PML-N government had planned to give female students free metro bus cards to use the service between Rawalpindi and Islamabad, but “the PTI government has increased the fare”.
He said the PML-N would implement this compensation for women after coming into power. He asked the government to withdraw its decision and not to burden people already having difficulty managing their home expenses due to inflation and bad economic policies of the government.
The provincial government’s decision has also drawn criticism from residents of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, who said that after increasing electricity and gas tariffs and making daily use items more expensive, the government has also snatched a reasonable transport facility.
“I work in Islamabad, and the metro bus service is a better transport service for people from the middle and lower middle classes. Increasing [the fare] will increase the transportation budget of the people,” Committee Chowk resident Tauqeer Shah said.
He added that there was no public transport on Murree Road from Liaquat Bagh to Faizabad, and people have to use the metro bus.
Fahad Ali, who lives in Saddar, said that his wife works in a government organisation and takes the metro bus to work. He called the increase unfair, saying that him and his wife are working because of inflation and use the bus service to save money on transport.
Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2019