A new era of modern transport begins
Courtesy: Ather Ali Khan
By the grace of Almighty, all criticism, skepticism, adverse statements, doubts, propaganda, delaying tactics, physical hardships and other such hindrances have failed to obstruct the march of development in Pakistan as metro bus in twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi is on track.
Today is the eventful day when people have started their journey to progress. All credit goes to the fore-sighted leadership of the country which envisaged this project and realized its importance for the masses for transforming their lives.
Realization of this ideal is another manifestation of present government’s firm resolve for revolutionizing the lives of the masses by providing basic facilities of live including honourable and state of the art transport facilities to the common man in Pakistan.
Metro-bus transport system, which hitherto had been a dream for the people of Pakistan, is now a practical reality. After Lahore, plying of metro bus for catering to the needs of thousands of people in the twin cities has ushered in a new era in the history of Pakistan.
The capital city of Pakistan “Islamabad” is the ninth largest city in the country. The population of the city has grown from 100,000 in 1951 to 1.3 million in 2012. Islamabad has attracted people from all over Pakistan, making it one of the most cosmopolitan and urbanized cities of Pakistan and center of economic and service activities. Adjacent to the Southern edge of Islamabad lies the city of Rawalpindi. It is situated in the North Eastern part of the Potohar Plateau in North Punjab. Being Headquarter of Rawalpindi Division and a close neighbor 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.
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 Taxis, 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 persons. It is estimated that public transport demand of around 135,000 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.
Based on the “Prefeasibility study on Bus Rapid Transit Project in Islamabad” conducted in November, 2012 under Asian Development Bank (ADB) funding, by Capital Development Authority (CDA), through Infrastructure Project Development Facility (IPDF) and the feasibility study “Transport Modeling of Mass Transit System in Rawalpindi & Islamabad 2014” conducted by consultant M/S NESPAK through Punjab Metro bus Authority & CDA, the two governments (Federal & Provincial) joined hands to launch a Metro Bus project to connect the twin cities and alleviate the traffic congestion on this corridor. In a meeting held in Lahore on 19th January 2014, co-chaired by the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Chief Minister of Punjab, it was decided that the project shall be funded on 50:50 cost sharing basis by the Federal Government & Government of the Punjab. As the Punjab Government has already completed successfully a similar Metro Bus project in Lahore, Prime Minister of Pakistan decided that the Provincial Government will execute this project through Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) as the single executing agency for both Rawalpindi & Islamabad parts of the project. 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.
The project route starts from near Flashman Hotel on Mall Road Rawalpindi and follows the existing Murree Road up to Faizabad. It then turns left into the Federal Territory and follows I.J.P. road upto 9th Avenue. Thereafter, it turns right and follows 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 is provided through the open space behind parade ground. It crosses the Constitution Avenue and another couple of main roads through underpasses. However, the remaining length of this section is also designed on a lower level in an open Trench section keeping in view various security constraints. The entire length i.e. 8.6 km of Metro Bus corridor in Rawalpindi area is elevated structure whereas about 13.9 km in Islamabad is at-grade but made signal-free by constructing grade separations at various intersections. Ten (10) stations in the Rawalpindi Part and fourteen (14) in the Islamabad Part are provided along the corridor. Functional elements at the stations include ticketing booths, concourse level passenger transfer, escalators, elevators, platform screen doors, turnstiles for automatic fare collection and all other amenities for passenger convenience. A central command & control centre is also included in the project to control the whole operation of the Metro Bus system which has the facility of car/motorcycle parking at the start point of the project. Initially the provision of a 10 lane Underpass costing (2 Lanes for Metro Bus and 8 Lanes for mix traffic) along the 9th Avenue was proposed at Peshawar Mor intersection. Later on, in view of the traffic issues at Peshawar Mor intersection, ongoing Widening/Rehabilitation of Kashmir Highway & its link with new Islamabad Airport, it was decided to dovetail the Metro Bus corridor in the interchange already designed by CDA. The same resulted in additional cost of Rs. 4.94 Billion and is being executed simultaneously with Metro Bus Project.
The entire corridor is dedicated and signal free for Metro Bus having total length of 22.5 Km (8.6 Km elevated, 10 Km elevated & 3.9 Km trench) with 24 stations. The project contains 2401 No. piles, 431 No. pile caps, 439 No. piers, 370 No. transoms, 2218 No. girders and 10635 meters deck slabs. The project includes 2 flyovers, 14 pedestrian underpasses and 13 vehicular underpasses to make it signal free. To accommodate 100 Metro Buses, a Bus depot near Peshawar Morr with all modern facilities has been constructed over an area of 16.5 acres provided by CDA free of cost. A state of the art Command & Control Centre at the start point of Metro Bus corridor near Flashman Hotel is also under construction which has three floors for car parking. Moreover, parking places at Shamsabad, Faizabad and Seventh Avenue Stations have also been developed. Project cost is estimated Rs. 44.64 billion and it is worth mentioning that project has been completed in 13 months only despite of many hurdles. An amount of 323.291 million has been spent to uplift metro bus corridor through landscaping and horticulture.
This will be a real tradition that mega project completed not only within sanctioned amount but also have saving of 1939 million with which construction of vehicular shallow underpass, widening of small Lai Nullah bridge for smooth traffic flow at Murree Road, construction of new emergency block at BBH Rawalpindi, shifting of WAPDA cables underground, construction of new approach road from Murree Road to IJP Road, construction of vehicular underpass between F-8 and G-8 Sectors Islamabad, traffic management for signal free vehicular movement at 7th Avenue, Islamabad, construction of different structures in Lieu of free of cost land acquisition from different Govt. departments, construction of services ducts in Islamabad, restoration of various roads in Islamabad and beautification of Metro Corridor is completed.