LAHORE, Feb 11: As the articulated Metro buses formally started plying the 27-km long route of the newly-inaugurated Metro Bus System (MBS), a large number of people thronged various bus stations on Monday to reap the benefits of a free ride.
Qaddafi Stadium, Model Town, Naseerabad, Chungi Amar Sadhu, Secretariat and some other bus stations were reported to be packed with passengers, including a majority of students and street kids, who continued boarding and alighting the buses to enjoy free journey.
Automatic hydraulic doors and side mirrors of at least four buses were reportedly damaged by anxious passengers during boarding and alighting, forcing the authorities concerned to reduce trips on the MBS route.
This caused a long delay in arrival of buses, irritating the huge crowd of passengers waiting anxiously at stations.
“I am here for the last half-an-hour to get the taste of free-of-cost Metro bus journey. But no bus has arrived here,” Arsalan, a student, told Dawn at the Kalma Chowk bus station. He said the people should make use of the facility in a disciplined way.
An elderly passenger said the government should immediately operate the elevators in order to ease passengers’ access to the bus stations.
The departments concerned have yet to make elevators, automatic ticketing and other facilities operational at various bus stations.
The bus stations were also lacking strength of the operational staff as well as security personnel.
An official told Dawn that since Feb 11 was the first formal operational day of Metro buses, the problems would be solved in coming days.
He said the situation would improve soon as top authorities were closely monitoring the MBS operation.
Meanwhile, the Punjab government and the Punjab Metro Bus Authority are seriously considering ending the free-travel facility in a day or two keeping in view the damage done to buses due to an extraordinary rush of passengers on the very first day of the MBS operation.
“The government is likely to start charging the fare shortly in view of the prevailing situation,” the PMBA general manager (operations) told Dawn.
He said the drivers of various buses had also reported to the administration of Platform, a Turkish company entrusted with the task to operate MBS, about the constant presence of various groups/elements in buses from Gajjumata to Shahdara who were restraining the general public from journey.
In view of such reports, he said the firm had been asked to ensure alighting of all passengers at the final destination of bus stations (Gajjumata and Shahdara) to facilitate genuine passengers.
He said the PBMA and the firm were both of the views that some elements wanted to disrupt operations of Metro buses in order to irritate genuine passengers.
“We have also asked the Platform administration to take operational issues seriously and depute (if required) a bus conductor or a security guard in each bus,” Shah added.