LAHORE - The Speedo bus service has badly failed to attract passengers even after one month of its inauguration in the provincial capital.

Equipped with all modern facilities, 200 buses can be seen everywhere in Lahore but without commuters. At a time when every rickshaw, mini bus and coaches and other public transport are seemed packed with passengers, Speedo buses - fully furnished and air-conditioned - make almost empty journey at its 14 routes. The service offers similar ease and accessibility to the Metro Bus service, operating within a 500 metre radius to connect the 27-km Metro bus route to the rest of Lahore.

The government had claimed that Speedo will change the transport culture of Lahore and facilitate large number of commuters. However, against the government estimates and claims that a huge amount of travellers will benefit from the service during busy hours, the service has badly failed to receive public response which put a question mark on success of the around Rs2 billion project.

Millions of commuters travel from one destination to another on daily basis in the city of over 10 million population, with severe shortage of comfortable and state of the art public transport. The entry of 200 new buses in this situation was not less than a blessing for the Lahorites. Out of the total 200 Speedo buses, 162 are big-sized (for 70 passengers) while the remaining 38 are small sized. The large bus is capable of carrying about 1,000 passengers each day.

A survey conducted by The Nation shows that the new bus service could not succeed even after four weeks of touching roads due to its “complex system” introduced by Punjab Mass Transit Authority (PMA). Since no passenger can travel on Speedo without having smart card, majority of daily travellers are unaware from where to get it and how to use it.

“The authorities were supposed to start a full-fledged awareness campaign before launching this service. We don’t know from where to make the card and how to use it,” said Muhammad Safdar, a daily commuter, from RA Bazar to Chungi Amarsiddhu. As the government is paying a flat rate of Rs165 per kilometer for large buses and Rs140 for small buses irrespective of whether there is any passenger or not, the companies face no loss. The operator has a six years contract with PMA and can be extended upon agreement between both parties.

“I got a card from a Punjab University shop but it did not work when I tried a bus. Then I revisited the shop and exchanged it with other card,” said Shafique Bhatti, another commuter. The Speedo ply at 14 routes (129-km in route length) with buses arriving every 10 minutes. The fare collection system is automatic and the buses equipped with Bus Scheduling System. The service operates from 6am to 11pm.Commuters suggest the authorities to allow every passenger to use the bus until the people at large get awareness about the system.