LAHORE - Transporters have not reduced fare on inter-city and intra-city routes despite around 40 percent cut in petrol and diesel prices since 2014.

The Punjab Transport Department and transporters recently made dramatic announcements of reduction in fares for commuters as petrol price came down by Rs 5 per litre. However, the ground situation is completely different. Either they introduced a nominal decrease in fare or have been charging the same fare from passengers as was being received in January last year. Not only this, the transport companies start charging double fare during special occasions like Eidul Fitr, Eidul Azha and Muharram vacations when there is increase in the number of passengers at bus terminals.

Thousands of passengers travelled from Lahore to other cities on Thursday to spend three holidays (Kashmir Solidarity Day, Saturday and Sunday) in their native towns or to go to Murree. A heavy rush was witnessed at bus terminals, the city’s exit and entry points on Thursday evening, night and on Friday morning. Transporters fully benefited from the situation.

The Nation conducted a survey, visited different bus terminals, interviewed passengers and talked to some transporters.

The survey’s findings were that there had been no change in fare. Similarly, the transport fare of buses and vans plying on city routes under the umbrella of Lahore Transport Company (LTC) have also not been decreased. It was observed that companies charge differently and mechanism of minimum and maximum fare system does not even exist.

For example, if a transport company charges Rs 300 between Lahore and Okara, the other charges Rs 250 on the same route.

The Punjab Transport Department, controlling the transport affairs across the province, and the LTC, an urban transport regulator in the provincial capital, are completely silent and allowing the dominant mafia to fleece commuters.

“Routine statements have been issued about cut in fare on every month by the transport department and transporters, but there is no considerable cut in fare,” said Muhammad Kamran, an architect by profession who works in Islamabad and lives in Lahore.

He said he makes usually two by-road trips between the federal capital and Lahore every month, but has not observed any change in fare, rather it has increased.

“I now pay Rs 1,270 when travelling by Daewoo, Rs 770 to Bilal Travel and Rs 730 to Faisal Movers. The same fare was being charged in 2015 between the two destinations,” he said.

Besides these known companies, the buses being run by Niazi Bus Service, Skyways, Rehbar Travel and other non-air-conditioned buses like New Khan, Baloch Transport Company, Bandyal Transport Company, Manthar Bus Service, Cheema Traveller, Chohan Bus Service and others have also not made any cut in fare. Some of them like Manthar and Cheema companies ply between Faisalabad and Sadiqabad. Hundreds of other buses run by individual owners don’t even have fixed fares. They charge the commuters according to their own will and situation.

“I travel between Lahore and Khanewal and get bus from Thoker Niaz Beg bypass. Sometimes, I pay Rs 600 and sometimes mere Rs 500 or even Rs 450. It depends on the situation (rush of passengers) and my negotiation with the bus staff,” said Muhammad Safdar, an agriculture department employee. He said a passenger who takes a bus (AC/non-AC) from Thokar Niaz Beg bypass for Okara, Sahiwal, Mian Channu or Khanewal to downward destinations pays Rs 200, Rs 250, Rs 400 and Rs 500 and so on, but it totally depends on the situation.

The situation is almost the same when one travels from Lahore towards North Punjab cities (Gujranwala, Gujrat, Sialkot, Wazirabad and Rawalpindi) and towards central Punjab (Faisalabad, Jhang, Toba Tek Sing and others) from Lahore.

On the other side, the commuters in Lahore have not witnessed any reduction in fare on the city routes. The stop-to-stop fare in the city remains unchanged for months – Rs 15 for mini vans and Rs 18 for the buses running under the umbrella of LTC. The maximum fare between two stops is Rs 25 that has remained unchanged for the last one year.

A transport department official, on request of anonymity, said there was no check and balance system because there did not exist any mechanism for fare control. The situation is reportedly the same in the other provinces, too.