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Capital transport far from ideal

Fare list not revised, overcharging continues for commuters



ISLAMABAD: Public transport in the capital territory, which was once considered an ideal model, is facing numerous issues, most of which need just some attention from the authorities concerned to tackle them accordingly.

For the past few years, the fare list of public transport in the Islamabad Capital Authority (ICT) has not been revised. Thus, commuters have been left at the mercy of transporters who charge them at will after every petrol price hike in the country.

Overloading of commuters is another dilemma being faced by commuters in the ICT. The Islamabad Transport Authority (ITA) allows only 15 commuters in a public transport van. However, the drivers openly violate this rule. Instead of carrying 15 commuters, some of the transporters allow as many persons as they deem ‘fit’ on the public transport vans.

Gul Shair, Mobile Motor Patrolling Inspector (MMPI), ITA told Bol News that his department has been taking firm action against the violations with regard to public transport facilities. He said a few dozen vehicles were impounded that were found in violation of rules and regulations.

“They [public transporters] have themselves raised the fares too high after [rise in prices of] petroleum products. We have issued more than 300 challans to transporters and impounded dozens of vehicles during the past two months.”

A lot of commuters have been approaching us to register their complaints and we take these complaints very seriously, Shair maintained.

Responding to the query as to why the local administration has not revised the fare list, he further said that his department two or three times moved the file to the quarters concerned in this connection. “But as the government does not want to transfer extra burden of fares on the general public, the fare list could [not] be revised.”

According to the patrolling inspector, the official fare of a public service vehicle (PSV) from one stop to another is Rs15 in the federal capital.

Responding to overloading in the public transport vans, he claimed that officially, a van can carry up to 15 commuters while a Coaster can carry up to 26 commuters at a time.

He said fines are imposed on violation of overloading in public transport. “We stand ready on every route in the city just to make sure that no violation is taking place anywhere.”

Sources in ITA say no public transport vehicle older than 10 years can ply on the roads unless it has been certified by the motor vehicle examiner that it is in sound shape.

They added that as the number of PSVs is already short compared with the demand, the authorities concerned allow decade-old vehicles to operate in the city provided they are fit to ply on the roads.

Non-functional routes

Interestingly, the approved routes of ITA are 47 out of which about 20 routes are non-functional. After the introduction of Metrobus service, some of the routes were severely affected, sources stated.

Most of the operational routes are being occupied by vans of a particular model while there are four routes on which pickups operate as passenger vans. There are also some routes which are dedicated for buses on which Coaster vans operate. Most of the time 30 to 40 vans operate on a single dedicated route.

Investors had shown less interest in the routes which are non-functional at the moment.

The routes in Islamabad are identified by digits like 101, 102, 103, and 104-A. Route No 101 has 24 buses which start from Pirwadhai to Faisal Mosque via Pindora, Faizabad, Zero Point, Aabpara, Supermarket area and Jinnah Super.

Route No 141 is the latest route which was introduced around five months ago and it operates between G-11/4 to Tumair via G-11/4, Katcheri, Police Lines, Nescom, Mandi Mor, IJP Road, Double Road, Faizabad, Sohan, Khanna Pull, Tramari, Sultana Foundation, Chirah and Tumair. This route has only 12 to 13 vans.

Meanwhile, ITA continues to release its advisory for public transport in which generally it underlines measures and bounds transporters to follow them.

The regional transport authority’s last advisory was issued on December 29 last year to improve public transportation.

Incomplete routes

In the latest advisory, ITA stressed on the need for PSVs to complete their respective routes. However, this is another severe issue which is being faced by the citizens who commute using these vehicles.

Instead of completing the route as required, the drivers on and off leave their respective route incomplete if the number of commuters in the van is not up to their expectations. In such cases generally heated arguments ensue between the drivers, conductors and the commuters who have been left at some bus or van stop, far away from their destination. Or they are handed over to drivers of some other vans.

However, according to the latest advisory the Islamabad Traffic Police shall ensure that the routes are completed. It warned that in case of violation, the route permit of that vehicle shall be cancelled.

According to the ITA guidelines, the fares of PSVs plying on routes have already been notified by the transport authority and overcharging is not allowed; strict action shall be taken on any such violation.

Rise in fuel prices

However, how can the public transporters honour the fare list which was notified years ago? In fact, the website of the authority concerned is carrying the fare list which was last updated in 2018. There is a huge difference between the petroleum prices of 2018 and that of 2022. This lacuna invites overcharging by the transporters. The authorities concerned need to address this issue after which they can expect from the transporters to oblige the fare list.

Currently, instead of the minimum fare of Rs15 from one stop to another stop, a minimum of Rs20 is charged from the commuters. This may go up to Rs30 between two stops.

The advisory also maintains that Motor Vehicle Examiner (MVE) shall ensure physical checking of the condition of vehicle so that it is safe to ply on roads. This includes the condition of engine, tires, smoke emissions, and overall seating condition.

In case any vehicle in poor condition is given a pass by MVE, the examiner will be held responsible, it further states. A number of things mentioned in this part of the advisory are met accordingly by the transporters but generally seating conditions are compromised in some PSVs.

Reportedly, front seats in PSVs would be reserved for female passengers and senior citizens and they shall be given priority on these seats.

The advisory has also highlighted that there is a ban on playing unethical videos and songs in PSVs.

Actually this part of the advisory also needs the attention of authorities concerned as there should be a complete ban on any sort of playing of songs or videos in PSVs. Moreover, it is difficult to determine which music is ethical or unethical.

Implementation of Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) including checking of full vaccination must be ensured. These SOPs are to be followed by all passengers, drivers and conductors, states the advisory.

Sadly, this part of the advisory is hardly followed as most of the time, the commuters, drivers and conductors rarely follow virus-related SOPs. Displaying fare lists is another mandatory task in the PSVs which is also rarely followed by transporters.

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