LAHORE’S already famous Metro Bus System excites and exacerbates. The Punjab government is possessed by this pre-poll wonder in the making and the media comes up with one aspect after another related to the initial 27-kilometre stretch that is being built day and night. The chief minister is always around proudly talking about the project amid less-than-cautious calculations which say that while officially this is a Rs24bn venture, in actual terms it may cost the taxpayers up to Rs70bn. Buses, said to be 18 metres in length, are being manufactured; a Turkish team which is to run it for some time is being awaited, all kinds of construction, even mazaars and bazaars, standing in the way have been razed and billboards celebrating the development strategically placed. Amid this excitement there are anonymous officials out to inflict their scepticism on everyone. Some of them told Dawn that they couldn’t quite fix a date for the realisation of Mr Shahbaz Sharif’s Turkish dream.
Officials say the minimum time required for the project was two and a half years. The chief minister, they maintain, wants the work done much faster. No one has specified a deadline — and no one, it seems, has anticipated the problems. Unforeseen difficulties have held up progress from time to time, yet the fanfare accompanying the work is sending out the message that the job could be completed overnight. People are getting impatient and they are talking about how the money lavished on the MBS could have been better spent elsewhere. This view can only be countered by giving them the opportunity to experience the facility firsthand and then decide on its merits and flaws. Until then, an honest estimate of how much and how long it will take could have the needed calming effect on proceedings.