The fears of the closure of Peshawar’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), a mega project, are turning into reality as a private bus operator has expressed concerns in a letter.
The BRT, which caters to over three lakh passengers daily, is set to cease operations on Wednesday if the provincial government fails to settle the company’s arrears by Tuesday evening. The chief executive of the private company, in a letter to the transport secretary, highlighted that they haven’t received payments for the past four months, resulting in arrears exceeding Rs 754 million.
Despite the provincial government’s promise to clear all arrears by Monday, June 5, and resolve the issue, the commitment couldn’t be fulfilled. As a consequence, the company will have to suspend services on Wednesday, while continuing operations on Tuesday.
The non-payment of arrears has made it extremely challenging for the BRT Peshawar operation to cover essential expenses such as fuel, repairs, electricity, employee salaries, and other necessary items. Therefore, the provincial government is urged to assist in resolving this financial predicament.
Furthermore, another company providing services at bus stations is also facing arrears exceeding Rs 11 crore due to the provincial government’s outstanding payments.
Aid Organizations’ Concern over Unpaid Arrears
The issue of non-payment of arrears for the BRT has drawn the attention of aid organizations, namely the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Agence France Development (AFD). In a joint letter sent by the contract directors of ADB and AFD to the Additional Chief Secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it is strongly emphasized that the non-payment represents a breach of contract.
The Asian Development Bank and Agence France-Development have contributed a substantial amount, totaling $475.7 million, towards the Peshawar BRT project, benefiting over three lakh passengers daily. However, it has come to light that the current bus operator has not received payment for several months, which is deeply concerning.
The failure of the provincial government to fulfill its financial obligations to the BRT bus operator is not only perplexing but also has severe implications. Halting the service would constitute a breach of contract with the provincial government, leading to dire consequences and negatively impacting both current and future projects.
Financial Challenges and Administrative Disputes Surrounding Non-Payment
The financial situation surrounding the non-payment of the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit project has been further complicated by administrative disputes and pressures on the Trans Peshawar Company, responsible for managing the project under the Department of Transport.
While sources indicate that the company has approximately 46 crore rupees in its account, it has been reluctant to make the necessary payments, citing pressure from the caretaker government. This reluctance to fulfill payment obligations has pushed the BRT service to the brink of closure.
Adding to the complexities, the caretaker transport minister has issued a letter to the private company operating the BRT vehicles and providing other facilities, instructing them to close their depot located on the transport department’s land.
This depot, which was under the ownership of the company before the inception of the BRT project, is connected to Peshawar’s Lahore bus station. However, the lease for the base, which expires in October 2022, has not been renewed, further exacerbating the situation.