The government has again altered the design of the Bus Rapid Transit System and decided to build an elevated bus lane all the way from Gaddafi Stadium to Bhati Gate, The Express Tribune has learnt.
This is at least the second time that plans for the elevated portion of the BRTS project have been altered. Officials involved with the project said that the decision to build an elevated bus lane over much of Ferozepur Road had been made because of fierce resistance to the government’s attempts to buy land along the road for its expansion.
Workers had been tearing up the road median between Kalma Chowk and Qurtaba Chowk over the last few weeks, it was assumed in order to construct the bus-only lane for the BRTS.
Initially, an elevated track was proposed to run from Qurtaba Chowk to MAO College. Then it was proposed that the northern end of the track be extended to Bhati Gate. Now the plan is to build an elevated track all the way from Gaddafi Stadium to Bhati Gate.
A Traffic Engineering and Planning Agency (TEPA) official said that the government had not planned the project properly. He said that government officials had returned from a trip to Turkey with a plan for a 7-kilometre bus lane from Gaju Matta and Kalma Chowk and the rest of the design for the BRTS was later made by the National Engineering Services of Pakistan. He said that this design kept being altered.
Punjab government spokesman Pervez Rasheed said that the plans had been altered because it was feared that the people from whom land was acquired would move the courts and delay construction of the BRTS for years.
Asked why such issues had not been addressed earlier and a proper plan made for the project, he said that a detailed study would have “wasted five years”.
He said that the project had been initiated quickly because the government wanted to improve public transport facilities and the planning was being done “step by step”.
The government has also decided to build a total of 84 escalators and 29 pedestrian bridges for the bus stops along the 27-km BRTS, which is also being called the Metro Bus Service. TEPA officials voiced concern over this plan, questioning whether the government could afford to operate so many escalators in view of the financial and energy crisis.
Lahore Transport Company General Manager Uzair Shah, who is also with the Bus Rapid Transit Authority, said that the escalators would only go up. For each bus stop built on the elevated track, there would be two escalators, one on either side of the road. Pedestrians would go up the escalators and then walk across the pedestrian bridge to the stop.
But four escalators would have to be built for bus stops built at ground level: two to take pedestrians up to the bridge from the sides of the road, and two to take passengers up to the bridge from the stop.
Shah said that generators would be installed for the escalators. He said 64 escalators would be installed in total for 16 ground-level bus stops, at a cost of Rs640 million. Twenty escalators would be installed at elevated bus stops, costing a total of Rs260 million.
Plans for the incorporation of a couple of bridges in the BRTS have also been changed. Initially, the Old Ravi Bridge was to be renovated and made part of the route. But TEPA officials said that there were concerns about the integrity of the bridge and a new bridge would likely be constructed. However, no final decision has been made, they said.
The Lahore Bridge near Kot Lakhpat was to be incorporated into the route without modification, but now engineers are to build a new 11-metre wide, 630-metre long bridge running alongside it. Regular traffic will run on the new bridge, while the BRTS will run in the central lane. The new bridge would include a ramp to PECO Road, modelled on the ramp to Wahdat Road in the new Muslim Town flyover. Officials involved with the project said that “principle approval” for an underpass at Model Town had been granted and the cost of the project was being assessed. Another underpass had been proposed at Qurtaba Chowk, but no decision had been made on the proposal, they said.