Athar Ali Khan

An efficient transport system, which facilitates timely movement of thousands of people to their work places in a hassle fee, smooth and honourable manner can rightly be considered as the backbone of the economy of a nation. No mega city of the world can expand, flourish, prosper and sustain without a suitable transport system. We are all witness to the well-organized transport system of the developed cities like London and New York and other cosmopolitan cities, which are used by millions of people daily for their day-to-day work. Governments in these countries know the significance of mass transit system and therefore invest heavily in this sector for easing transportation of the people.

Realising the importance of mass transit system, Government of the Punjab, under the stewardship of Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, kicked off work on the first ever bus rapid transit system of Pakistan in Lahore , the heart of Pakistan, in February 2012.  At a cost of Rs. 29.8 billion, the project was executed in a record time of 11 months, the shortest possible duration for executing such projects. The system, later named as Metrobus System, is benefitting 150 thousand people daily in Lahore.

Encouraged by the success of the system in the provincial metropolis, the Punjab government has decided to spread the fruits of progress to other cities if the province as well. Ground breaking ceremony of Metrobus system in Rawalpindi-Islamabad has been performed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on the eve of Pakistan Day on 23 March 2014. Total length of the track will be 22.5 Kilometers and completion time of the project is 10 months.

Since its very foundation, Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, has attracted people from all over Pakistan, making it one of the most cosmopolitan and urbanized cities of Pakistan and centre of economic and service activities which attract people from all over the country.

The population of the city has grown from 100,000 in 1961 to 1.30 million in 2012, making it the ninth largest city in the country.  Adjacent to the Southern edge of Islamabad lies the city of Rawalpindi. Being Headquarter of Rawalpindi Division and a close neighbour of the Federal Capital, Islamabad, the population of Rawalpindi City has rapidly increased over the years.

Murree Road is one of the busiest and most preferred link between the twin cities due to its shorter length and direct approach. During the last few years there has been an unprecedented increase in vehicular traffic in the city, especially along Murree Road, resulting in severe traffic congestion on this route. This congestion causes excessive delays, environmental pollution and associated socio-economic problems for the daily commuters. Public transport is one of the major contributors in the traffic mix and the quality of service being provided is of poor standard.

The greater Islamabad – Rawalpindi Metropolitan Area is the third largest conurbation in Pakistan with a population of over 4.5 million inhabitants. The Twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi are growing at a rate of more than 4 percent per annum, indicating a higher than national growth due to significant migration. With present growth trends it is expected that the population would increase to 7.0 million in twenty years’ time.Since both cities have grown into each other, significant amount of commuting takes place between the two cities. Currently private transport is the major means of mobility between two cities comprising of Mazda, Toyota Hiace, and Suzuki vans plying on various routes within and between the two cities. There is no organized urban bus transport service operating in the city and between cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Level of service offered by the minibuses is far below any acceptable standard.

Traffic volumes of over 210,000 vehicles ply on three major corridors connecting both the cities carrying around 525,000 passengers. It is estimated that public transport demand of around 153,000 passengers is available on daily basis between the two cities. Interestingly this passenger demand is concentrated around a corridor which is of high density and strategically located to provide for reasonable patronage for a rapid transit system. It will work in close coordination with the Capital Development Authority (CDA) for the Islamabad Part of the project. Punjab Metrobus Authority (PMA) will control the operation & maintenance of the project after its completion. PMA will also coordinate with CDA at O&M stage of the project.

The project will start from near Flashman Hotel on Mall Road Rawalpindi and follow the existing Murree Road upto Faizabad. It will then turn left into the federal territory and follow I.J.P. Road upto 9th Avenue. Thereafter, it will turn right and follow the 9th Avenue in Islamabad then turn right on Jinnah Avenue upto the end of Blue Area. From Blue Area a connection to Secretariat stop will be provided through the open space behind parade ground. It will cross the Constitution Avenue and another couple of main roads through underpasses.