LAHORE: The much awaited Metro Bus Service (MBS), which is said to be the biggest in Pakistan, consisting of 27 bus stations was inaugurated in Nishtar Colony Lahore on Sunday.
Thousands of well-wishers lined the way as Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag launched the service by riding the 27-station route, which was decorated with Turkish and Pakistani flags.
The Rs30 billion ($300 million) project, completed in collaboration with Turkish company Al Buraq, will ferry up to 12,000 passengers an hour along a dedicated 27-kilometre roadway from the suburbs to the city centre, officials said.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Nawaz Sharif was also present on the occasion.
But the grand fanfare for the inauguration of the MBS was marred as police thrashed young doctors, who protested on the occasion to spoil it. They were dragged on the roads and virtually dumped into the police vehicle. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Shaukat Basra, who was present with the protesters to express solidarity with them and to take on the Punjab government was also slightly wounded in the fracas.
The design of the new bus stations is similar to the Metro bus service run by Al Buraq in Istanbul, with the addition of a nine-kilometre elevated roadway through the centre of Lahore to avoid the city’s congested streets.
Addressing the ceremony‚ Shahbaz said that the metro bus service project will help in providing modern‚ comfortable and affordable transport service to all segments of society‚ especially for poor people.
“Turkey gave us lot of concessions in materialising this project. Had we contacted any other country they would have charged millions of dollars,” he said in his inaugural speech.
“This is a clean and dedicated transport system which will be equally used by rich and poor.”
The routes and stations were decorated with fresh flowers and posters representing Pakistani culture. Lahories danced to drums celebrating the new service introduced by the Punjab government.
Diplomats from various other countries and other political personalities including Maryam Nawaz, Hamza Sharif, American diplomat Nina Maria, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Liaquat Baloch, Talat Bugti and others were present at the inaugural ceremony.
On Feb.5 last year, the ground was broken for the project. Work on the 27-kilometre long project — from Gajju Matta to Shahdara — started on March 12.
Due to MBS, the 27-kilometre long journey, which otherwise takes two hours, would now be covered in just 55 minutes.
The service would be free of charge for the general public for the first four weeks. A modern e-ticketing system has been introduced for the project, which would have special reserved seats for women and the disabled.
Punjab Metro Bus Authority has been formed to run the administrative matters of bus system, while an agreement has been made with Lahore Waste Management Company to ensure modern sanitation system at its routes.
Foolproof security arrangements have also been made on the route.
Iftikhar Ahmed, 45, a government employee, said the new system — which will be free for the first month — would make commuting much easier.