Environment friendly public transport vital for improving air quality, mobility of people

Fakhar Alam

PESHAWAR, Apr 17 (APP): Instead of enjoying fragrance of red roses, jasmine and others spring flowers; Peshawarties were exposed to inhale polluted air mostly emanating from tsunami of unregistered rickshaws, taxis and old passengers’ vehicles.

Once known a city of flowers, is now being faced with grave issue of air pollution and traffic jams — causing thick smoke and deafening noise of horns testing nerves of over two million people. Before iftaar, long queues of traffic is often being witnessed in Hastnagri, Firdus, Shoba, Dabgari Garden, Ganj, Kohati and Gulbahar, forcing many people to break the fast on roads due to the traffic mess.

Dabgari Garden, a hub of private hospitals, doctors clinics and diagnostic laboratories where patients come for treatment from across the country wait for hours to make a way due to traffic jams causing mental agony. Patients in ambulances with their blaring sirens are also seen stranded in roads leading to Lady Reading Hospital and GT Road between Hastnagri and Firdus in unruly traffic.

The narrowness of GT road due to construction of BRT corridor, blocking of ‘suray bridge’ often by the demonstrators in front of KP Assembly and VVIP movement were hampering smooth flow of traffic while creating difficulty for civil secretariat employees to reach their office in time.

“Traffic jam has made our life miserable. On Friday last, I along with my family left Dabgari Garden at 5:00 p.m and reached general bus stand at 6:45p.m by covering the thirty minutes distance in nearly one hour and 45 minutes due to massive traffic jam on GT Road between Hastnagri and Fridus,” said Qaiser Khan, a retired government employee and resident of Nowshera while talking to APP.

“It was my worst and nerve breaking experience I had in Peshawar since my retirement last year. My knees started to hurt due to excessive use of clutch and brakes during driving in massive traffic jam,” he added.

Qaiser, while terming Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) service as good addition in transport service in Peshawar, said its buses were often overloaded after scrapping of old buses and wagons on its route, resultantly most of passengers in BRT have to travel from Peshawar City to Hayatabad without a seat due to shortage of buses.
He said widening of GT road near Hastnagri and Firdus, ban on smoke emitting rickshaws and without permit taxis and increasing BRT buses was imperative to address problem of traffic congestion and combat air pollution.

KP Transport Department official told the news agency that most of Peshawarties travel around the city by using informal public transport including rickshaws and taxis that caused traffic jams on roads in interior city.

Majority of drivers of tri-wheeler are without permits, he said, adding it was the responsibility of traffic police rather transport department to take strict action against illegally operating rickshaws and private taxis besides increasing buses on BRT feeders routes.

Fayyaz Khan, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Trans Peshawar told APP that all main towns of Peshawar and its surrounding areas were being interconnected through BRT feeders routes for smooth mobility of the people. He said five new feeder routes including 7.5 km Hayatabad Phase 1, 12 km long Regi Model Town/Nasir Bagh Road, seven km long Warsak Road, four km long Khyber Road, and 15 km Chamkani to Pabbi were approved. Eighty six new environment friendly buses were being purchased for these feeders’ routes and main corridor, he added.

Completed at a cost of Rs70 billion with 27.5 km long corridor, 30 stations, 155 stops and seven feeder routes, he said the BRT was providing environment friendly quality service to around 2,50,000 passengers including women, children, senior citizens, persons with disabilities, students and government servants per day. “Till to date, around 80 million passengers had travelled in BRT after its inauguration on August 13, 2,000,” he added.

“Prior to BRT, travelling services in passengers’ wagons and buses were only available to two percent women and today it was increased to 20 percent women passengers,” he said, adding 60,000 women are daily using the service due to its secure environment and signal free air- conditioned service. He said government plans to extend the service to Khyber and Warsak Roads. To counter air pollution, he said, ZU bicycle service was launched in Hayatabad and University of Peshawar where 360 ZU bicycles were made operational.

Fayyaz Khan said under the government policy, 350 old busses and wagons were scrapped on the recommendations of five members committee and payment to its owners were made. He said 220 more outdated busses and wagons would soon be scrapped. The decision was aimed to take the smoke emitting vehicles off the road and encourage citizens to switch to BRT.

A new general bus terminal on 303 kanal with 375 bays for parking of light and heavy vehicles was being constructed in Sardar Ghari at BRT main terminal near Peshawar Motorway to facilitate passengers of others districts. The project would be completed with an estimated cost of Rs five billion by June next year. He said all the bus stands would be shifted to the new bus terminal that will help reduce environmental pollution.