LAHORE – The Punjab government has announced a decrease in fares on inter- and intra-city (urban) routes but the ground situation is different as no relief has been given to the commuters.

The Punjab Transport Department on Tuesday held a meeting with transporters and projected recalculation of fares on inter-city and urban routes as a win-win situation for both the commuters and the transport companies. None the less, the winners, as ever, turn out to be the transporters – because of government’s miscalculations and transporters’ obduracy they stand for.

Addressing a press conference after the meeting at the Transport House, Transport Department Secretary Captain (r) Muhammad Yousaf said that overall 30 percent cut in fares had been made on inter-city routes while 25 percent decrease made on urban routes in line with the recent decrease in CNG prices.  The transport secretary said that earlier the fare rates for the transport operating on CNG and petrol were different, but now they have been combined for the convenience of passengers and implementation across the board.

However, new fares brought no respite for the millions of commuters across the Punjab, especially in Lahore. The commuters complained that powerful transporters, as a matter of routine, overlook the government’s fare list and overcharge.

“About 90 percent vehicles never display the fare list. The cheating has been made in connivance with the transport authorities and no one keeps a check on the influential transporters, majority of whom come from political families or background,” said a government official on the condition of anonymity.

A government notification regarding revised fares read: “Existing fare for non-air-conditioned hiace and minibus on inter-city metalled plain roads is being charged Rs 0.95 per kilometre during four days of CNG availability while they charge Rs1.12 per km when operating on petrol during CNG outage. The passengers will now pay Rs0.89/km all the week through. On uneven and hilly roads, they will charge Rs0.91 and Rs0.99 per km respectively.

However, the change shows a negligible decrease in fares on inter-city routes.

The Transport Department said that non-air conditioned vehicles on urban routes will charge Rs 13 minimum fare, claiming they are charging Rs 16 at the moment. Interestingly, the van owners charge Rs 10 minimum fare on majority of city routes and in fact the government has increased the minimum fare instead of decreasing it.

The Transport Department went a step ahead to give relief to the newly arrived bus companies in the city. According to the notification, the CNG air-conditioned buses are charging Rs 20 as minimum fare and will charge Rs 16 as minimum fare. But in reality some of the buses are already charging Rs 15 as minimum fare. 

The fare of the diesel-operated public transport, which according to the transport authorities ply 90 percent of inter-city routes, will remain unchanged.