A busload of issues

September 6, 2020

Poor policies and operational irregularities in the LTC have rendered the company dysfunctional over time

Most LTC buses and wagons have disappeared from the scene altogether. — Photos by Rahat Dar

The Lahore Transport Company (LTC), set up in 2009 with the aim to provide the city with an efficient, safe and affordable service, has failed to deliver on its promise. Or how do you explain the fact that a majority of its routes have long been shut?

Poor policies and alleged irregularities in its operations rendered the LTC almost dysfunctional over time. This, coupled with a growing lack of transporters’ confidence in the company, led to its complete downfall.

The LTC, formed during the tenure of the Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PML-N), was controversial and unprofitable right from the start. It initially procured 300 buses and inducted a total of 262 buses in the provincial capital. The service was being provided on 19-odd urban routes. However, not a single bus from its fleet of hundreds — which were handed over to the company from time to time — has been plying the allotted routes. What’s more, the future of new buses, to be purchased by the LTC, also hangs in the balance.

Besides the closure of its routes, a great number of shelters built at the LTC bus stops have been wrecked for lack of proper maintenance.

The company still claims to be a success story, while nothing concrete has been done to help the daily commuters. In fact, most LTC buses and wagons have disappeared from the scene altogether.

It is also alleged that some officials in the company got a number of high-maintenance buses dismantled at the Misri Shah junk market, in a bid to dispose of them at throwaway prices.

The current pandemic has further dented the company’s reputation, as its operations came to a complete halt. It’s yet to recover from the impact.

Interestingly, while no LTC buses are to be seen in the city, their mini wagons continue to operate in parts of the city. Most of these mini wagons are in a deplorable condition.

Non-availability of funds has also contributed to marring the company’s performance, as it has not been able to acquire its promised fleet of 1,500 buses for public transport.

Incessant delays

“I don’t know whoever in the company or the government, for that matter, shall come forward and resolve our commuting problem,” says Idrees Butt, a student in a local college.

He laments the fact that he has to wait endlessly on Wahdat Road bus stop. “Metro [Bus] has but very limited routes.”

Amjad Abbas, an older Lahori, is of the view that this “isn’t simply the issue for those travelling within the city. Those who arrive [in the city] from outside Lahore face the same problem of incessant delays in reaching their destinations, owing to the non-availability of LTC buses.”

Zainul Abdeen, another citizen, says that LTC “was an excellent project, but it fell victim to politics of rivalry, as the PTI government disowned all mega projects initiated by Mian Shehbaz Sharif. And it’s the common people like us who have to suffer.

“Before the pandemic, I was able to commute from the Railway Station to my office in Township on an LTC bus. But now there’s no bus on that route,” he adds. “I have no option but to take a rickshaw or a cab which is costlier.”

No comments

The pandemic made a further dent in the company’s reputation, as its operations came to a complete halt.

Surprisingly, when contacted, no one from the CEO of LTC, Zafar Qureshi, to the transport secretary, Sheharyar Bahu, was willing to comment. Their excuse was that they could not talk on the matter without consulting the government.

Meanwhile, talking to TNS, the PML-N MPA Rahila Khadim Hussain alleged that a number of LTC buses, worth Rs 10 million each, had been sold for a ridiculous Rs 700,000 per vehicle, at the behest of the Buzdar-led provincial government.

Condemning the decision, she stated that the sitting government had “put on sale the scraps of 200 buses over the past one year. These [buses] were imported by Mian Shehbaz Sharif to provide a comfortable and inexpensive transport to the people of Lahore. The buses were plying on as many as 29 routes of the city which were all closed by the PTI government without any rhyme or reason.”

She termed it a financial scam and called upon the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to initiate a probe into the matter.

Chief Minister Usman Buzdar rubbished all social media reports, calling them fabricated. He said the previous government had given an eight-year contract for specific routes in Lahore to Albayrak which had lately expired. The buses are the company’s property and the government has nothing to do with them, he added.

A senior LTC official said, on condition of anonymity, that though the company’s performance was lacking since its inception, various other factors such as the tug-of-war between two high-ranking officials of the company in a bid to grab more power, had badly affected its operations.

According to the official, “Private transporters working with the company have gone on an indefinite strike. Today, even their wagon service is caught up in problems. But instead of resolving them, the company has limited its role to issuing challans only.”

The writer is a senior journalist and can be reached at [email protected]

A busload of issues: Poor policies and operational irregularities in LTC have rendered the company dysfunctional over time