ISLAMABAD - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Pakistan on Tuesday signed $435m loan agreements for two projects , Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system in Peshawar and to fill infrastructure gap through public-private partnership in Sindh .

The ADB and Pakistan signed a $335 million loan agreement to help develop a Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system in Peshawar, the capital city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The project will improve public transport of the city through a state-of-the-art integrated BRT system. Meanwhile, the ADB and Pakistan also signed a loan agreement of $100 million that will improve and strengthen the standards in the development and delivery of public-private partnership (PPP) projects to increase investment in infrastructure and services in the Sindh .  

Xiaohong Yang, ADB’s Country Director for Pakistan, and Shahid Mahmood, Secretary Economic Affairs Division (EAD), signed the loan agreements in Islamabad. Dawood Khan, Secretary Transport and Mass Transit Department, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, signed the project agreement on behalf of the provincial government. Finance Minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar witnessed the signing ceremony.

“Peshawar is a center of trade and commerce not only for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but also for the broader region. The city’s booming population has been causing tremendous traffic congestion and pressure on its public transport infrastructure and basic urban services negatively impacting its economic growth” said Ms Yang. “The BRT corridor will improve the quality of life of the city’s residents by offering safer, efficient, and affordable public transportation. The modern technology used in the project will also cut emissions, and make commuting easier and safer for women, and attract businesses and investors to the city.” The Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and the European Investment Bank are also expected to co-finance the project.

The Peshawar BRT corridor will span 26 kilometers from Chamkani to Hayatabad, mainly at-grade along the GT road with a 6-km elevated section in the city-center and tunnel or trench section at junctions to ensure its full segregation. The system will include 32 stations, 1 staging facility and 2 depots. The entire corridor will be restructured along the new BRT infrastructure, including upgraded mixed traffic lanes, sidewalks, streetlights and drainage. It will have many innovative features such as park-and-ride facilities, and a continuous walkway and bicycle lanes built along the at-grade sections and underneath the elevated section. Bicycle parking will also be provided on pilot basis at BRT stations to allow commuters to use bicycles as their first or last mile connectivity to the BRT. The Peshawar BRT project is a transformational venture for the city that will lead to urban renewal on a wide scale.

The “third-generation” system will allow BRT vehicles to travel along the BRT corridor in the busiest parts of the city and to travel off-corridor in less congested areas. This approach expands the system’s reach and capacity, lessens passenger transfers, and increases ridership and financial sustainability. Among the mass transit systems, BRT is considered to be the most cost-efficient. In many cases, with only a fraction of the cost, BRT carries as many passengers as a light rail (LRT) system. Besides, BRT also offers flexibility and easy system expansion.

The BRT project will also help develop institutional capacity of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mobility Authority and the TransPeshawar Company to ensure sustainable operations. It will establish universal access and safety features for women and children, as well as disabled, including proper lighting and surveillance, segregated areas, and staff trained to facilitate women commuters. Of the 4,000 jobs expected to be generated by the project, over 20% are expected to be for women.

On the other hand, Sindh project will help establish a PPP Support Facility (PSF), a not-for-profit company with private sector led management, to manage government support for PPPs in a fiscally responsible manner. The support will be mainly provided to PPPs through viability gap funding for mobilizing private sector investments in infrastructure, including social services. The project will help strengthen the Sindh government’s capacity to identify, develop, and implement projects with the private sector participation, bringing innovation, efficiency and overall value-for-money.

“The project will build on ADB’s previous partnership with the Government of Sindh to strengthen the PPP framework and will draw from national and international best practices to support the provincial government’s policies for fast-track provision of sustainable infrastructure,” said Ms Yang. “After the successful completion of this project, ADB aims to continue supporting the PPP initiative in the province by replicating this model in the future to encourage a stream of PPP projects across various sectors.”

The Government of the United Kingdom, through the Department for International Development (DFID), is co-financing the project through a $19.23 million (equivalent to GBP 14.74 million) and $4.75 million (equivalent to GBP 3.64 million) technical assistance (TA), both of which will be administered by ADB . The total cost of the project is $188.98 million, with the Sindh government contributing $65 million. The expected completion date of the project is mid-2022.

Sindh is Pakistan’s second most populous province and is the most urbanized, with about 52% of the people living in cities. Providing the crucial sea-port access and key industrial and business hubs, Sindh generates 32% of Pakistan’s gross domestic product. The project will support increased private sector financing in infrastructure investment and public services in Sindh province.