LAHORE - The Metro Bus Service, launched at a cost of Rs30 billion for a 27-kilometre route in the provincial metropolis, is causing a daily loss of Rs5 million, it has been learnt.

While a passenger pays Rs20 for one-way travel, the government has to pay a subsidy of Rs40. Informed sources say the service has eaten up more than Rs1.5 billion of public money since its inauguration in February 2013.

The performance and utility of Lahore Metro Bus Service has a direct bearing on the question that if this mega project should be replicated in Rawalpindi, as planned by the government.

The government is giving such a huge subsidy on a single route and that too at a time when it is planning to privatise more than two dozen key state enterprises which are running in loss, arguing that the resources being spent to keep them afloat could be used on other important public projects.

On the positive side of the things, the MBS daily facilitates almost 140,000 commuters from Gajju Matta to Shahdrah area during the 5-day week, as per officials of the Metro Bus Authority. There are around 50 routes in Lahore with many even without any public transport facility.

Millions of commuters travel in the City daily at Chingchi rickshaws, worn out vans and outdated buses and pay from Rs15 to Rs35 fare even at routes much smaller than that of metro bus. If a commuter travels on some other bus of van from Gajju Matta to Shahdrah, he/she will have to pay around Rs60.

As for the figures are concerned, the provincial government is generating Rs2.8 million in revenue from fare collection as compared with per day expenditure of around Rs8 million. Annual income from the metro bus track is around Rs912.5 million.

The Punjab government in budget 2013-14 had allocated Rs2 billion for Metro Bus subsidy after clear refusal of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to increase the fare. The government had outsourced the all operational, maintenance, security and other expenditures to around 12 companies after the start of the service.

Critics question spending so much money on travellers of a particular route at the expense of the rest of the population of province. And the same argument is presented against the launch of similar project in Rawalpindi.

A transport department official said the subsidy being paid at this one route was sufficient to purchase 500 busses and even Lahore desperately needs around 2,000 buses to meet the needs of the daily commuters as presently only around 300 buses are operating in the city under the umbrella of the Lahore Transport Company (LTC).

Severe shortage of public transport is also a problem in other big cities of Punjab like Multan, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad and Gujranwala.

Metro bus Service was launched at a cost of Rs30 billion (although many say it’s understatement). In the service, 64 metro buses, with a capacity three times that of ordinary buses, run along 27km track. At the time of inauguration, a total of 45 buses had been imported from Turkey but the government added 19 buses in September last year. The buses stop at 27 stations that cover the entire route.

When the service was launched, it was claimed that even those with personal cars will prefer to avail this facility but one can see dozens of passengers standing at Ferozpur Road beneath the metro track who prefer to choose ordinary vans and mazdas to reach at their destination instead of the metro bus.