ISLAMABAD - The project “Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro Bus Service (Islamabad Portion, length 13.656 km) costing Rs. 23.6 billion was approved on Thursday in principle subject to rationalization of cost and scope by a Committee headed by Secretary Cabinet Division.

The committee will comprise Members from CDA, Rawalpindi Development Authority, Finance Division and Chiefs of Sections T&C, Economic Appraisal and Environment of the Planning Commission.

The Committee will also look into the feasibility study, environment impact assessment and economic viability of the project. The project will offer good connectivity and road infrastructure between the twin cities and benefit the commuters by providing better quality and environment friendly public transport system. As part of groundwork for the proposed project, the Punjab government has directed officials to complete a survey of the infrastructure that would be cleared and shifted before initiating the work on the multi-billion rupees plan.

The Prime Minister had already decided that the Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) will solely undertake the project. “The CDA has just been asked to earmark 20 acres for the establishment of a bus depot in Islamabad,” said an official while talking to this scribe.

In addition, the CDA official revealed that the Punjab government has hired National Engineering Services Pakistan (Nespak) as the design consultant for the project, “on a single tender basis and will also be responsible for construction, supervision and management of the project”.  “Under special circumstances, PPRA is entitled to relax rules and regulations under its ordinance before granting contracts to firms,” the official added. The official was not sure if the federal government was also taken on board prior to hiring Nespak, as almost 15 kilometres of the 20-km-long bus route will pass through the capital.

Residents of Rawalpindi and Islamabad will have to wait a little more to take benefit from the modern public transport as the Punjab Metro bus Authority is said to have asked the interested firms to submit the required documents to take part in the pre-qualification process. The selected firms will be responsible for the construction of underpasses, flyovers, roadwork, drainage, bus stations, and others facilities.

The CDA official added the CDA has decided in the meeting that the natural beauty, environment and landscape of Islamabad would be protected and preserved. It was also decided that 1 percent of the cost of the PC-1 would be reserved for the protection of environment and horticulture in Islamabad. The 14-kilometer stretch of Metro-Bus would be constructed in Islamabad territory. It was further informed that 14 bus stops with one-kilometer distance each along this would also be constructed in Islamabad.