The noise of traffic is inescapable wherever in Lahore you go. A city of over 10 million and one of the largest in the country. It was a matter of great achievement when the first modern public mass-transit system was launched in the city in February 2013. It was widely publicized that the project had been completed in a record time of 11 months and is a valuable addition to the civic life of the citizens of Lahore. Although the project itself was no less remarkable, the extent of media coverage of the launch and the presence of dignitaries was surprising.
Opening Ceremony of Project – A Great Festival
On February 11, 2013, it seemed as if the entire city of Lahore had flooded out onto the streets to celebrate the launch of the rapid bus transit system developed by the provincial government. It was probably a way the citizens were trying to make up for the lost festivities of basant. As the Punjab chief minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif inaugurated the project, it was heartening to find ambassadors of more than 50 countries present at the occasion to congratulate the provincial government and the people of Lahore. Of most prominence was the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister whose country invested millions into the project.
A total of 45 buses are expected to cover the 27 kilometer route from Gajjumata to Shahdra. The project is expected to provide convenient transport to the thousands who have to traverse the city from one end to the other for their livelihood. Large crowds swelled at each of the 27 stations where the first buses were welcomed with music, fanfare and festive cheers. It was indeed a day of show for the provincial government as the buses filled with foreign dignitaries arrived at each stop. Extensive media coverage was provided as cameras relayed images of the newly built stations, corridors and escalators.
What Do the Critics Say?
A lot of criticism was also heaped at the government for launching the project in a hurry so close to the elections. Many commented that it was a gimmick to seek votes and would become a white elephant to the next government. While the provincial government insisted that the project was completed within Rs 30 billion, many skeptics did not believe these claims and continued to suggest figures of around Rs 70 to 90 billion. The decision to offer free rides for a month also had to be taken back following the chaos that ensued from the following day onwards.