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DHA shuttle service heading to a bottomless pit

LAHORE – The new Defense Housing Authority coaster shuttle service, launched five months back, is heading to a pit hole due to exorbitant fare, limited coverage, dismal awareness, under-strength buses, irregular schedules and lack of maintenance of buses, Pakistan Today has learnt.

October last year was the third time that the DHA had initiated its bus services. A local company, for the first time, had joined hands with DHA to run Chinese buses six years back but project flopped. Later one and half years back LTC made a venture with DHA Administration but to no end.

At the time of the third launch, the DHA residents showed great enthusiasm and used the bus service but soon they lost the interest. The main reason, amongst others, was that contrary to the promises made to them, bus services could not be broadened to all sectors. Buses also missed the timing and lacked regularity in their schedule. Fare issue was also problematic. People also complained about discomfort in travelling. Now, even though the service has not closed down completely, the buses can hardly be spotted.

DHA Spokesman Tajamul Hussain told Pakistan Today that DHA had no plan to phase out the bus service. However, he admitted that most of the residents owned cars and were not interested in the bus service. “But as far as the middle class is concerned, bus service is still useful,” he added. He also revealed that DHA had planned to expand the bus services by making it more competitive and luxurious to increase the number of passengers.

“We don’t need the buses,” said Anum Tahir, a student, adding “I don’t think this bus service is a good idea.”

“The timing is what is wrong with this service,” said Ali Mumtaz, who is a salesman and has to travel between blocks. “I started using the service but I had to wait for over an hour for the bus to arrive. This had bad effects on my business so I switched back to rickshaws,” he said.

“It would’ve been better if DHA administration had carried out a survey or something to determine how many would choose to travel by a bus and at what times,” said Afzal Bhatti, a resident in Block A.

“This is sheer ill-planning and a waste of money,” he added. Details revealed that a new DHA coaster shuttle service was put in action at the Y-Block commercial area. It comprised of four air-conditioned buses worth Rs 29 million that covered Defence Phase I to Phase V with 28 stoppages. The 28 bus stops, include a spot near the Lahore Grammar School in Phase V, Bedian Road, the X-Block Caltex Pump, Walton Road, Y-Block Commercial Market, Ghazi Chowk, H-Block commercial area, Defence National Hospital, Lalik Jan Chowk and Wateen Chowk. Plying between 6am to 10pm and it took around 30 minutes to complete the 30-kilometre route.

DHA official said new bus service was launched to offset traffic gridlocks within DHA and to provide better transport facilities to the residents. He said against the plan, coasters took more than 10 minutes in each phase and some time ten seats in each coaster set aside for female passengers were used by male passengers. A single journey cost Rs30 but fleecing case were also reported, he added.

In 2008, the Punjab government had claimed that the public transport system would be revolutionised to mitigate commuters’ hardships and traffic mess. Establishing the Lahore Transport Company (LTC) by delegating powers to it withdrawn from the Punjab Transport Department, the CM had announced to bring more than 2,000 buses. Local transporters were engaged and some memorandums of understanding (MoU) were also singed. Recently, the LTC mentioned 500 buses again but there is little progress insight.

Meanwhile, giving a fresh impetus to Istanbul-Lahore friendship journey, Istanbul Mayor Dr Kadir Topbas announced to gift 100 buses for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project which would hopefully improve the situation.

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