Niazi Express Shuts Intra-city Bus Service
THE commuters in the provincial metropolis suffered a severe blow on Friday as the Niazi Express shut the service of 48 buses, worsening the state of the already dire public transport system.
The Niazi Express Intra-City Bus Service constitutes a chunk of the public transport infrastructure of the City with buses catering to commuters on major routes. The buses have not been operating for the past three days and the sight of the bus stations swarming with frustrated commuters, sweating in the scorching heat, is a testament to the disruption caused by the shortage of buses.
Speaking to The News, the owner of Niazi Express, Arshad Khan Niazi, said he was forced to take the extreme decision as the government kept on crushing the transport owners with meagre fare increase and false promises. He said he was the first one to resort to such a drastic measure but he would soon be followed by others as the financial state of all transport owners was deplorable.
Mr Niazi said the Punjab chief minister had promised the transport owners that they would be paid operational subsidy on all the routes from September 1, 2009 but the subsidy was never paid and the government owed a total subsidy of Rs 2.5 billion to the Niazi Express alone. The pending subsidy for the years 2006, 2007 and 2008 too had not been paid despite being reassured over and over again by the government. He said the procrastinating tactics of the government had pushed the transport owners to resort to debts and loans.
Arshad Khan Niazi has refused to bring back the buses on the roads until the government addresses his demands. He demanded the government pay the outstanding operational subsidy amount from 2006 to date and to decide a mutually-agreed formula for the future subsidy provision and fares. In another demand concerning legitimate business protection, he said that the transport department and the LTC should eliminate all illegal transport such as motorcycle-rickshaws and wagons from the routes of his buses. He said that he had already submitted an application to the LTC in this regard but no action had been taken so far.
The 48 buses operate on three routes in the city, i.e. 39, 40 and 24. Route 39 operates from Sherakot till the Allama Iqbal International Airport. Route 40 links the Walled City from the Lorry Adda to Wapda Town. Route 24 connects the south-western Lahore from Green Town till the Lorry Adda. These routes not only connect key residential areas with commercial hubs but are also the preferred mode of transport for the vegetable and fruit mongers who use these buses to transport goods from the Sabzi Mandi to the mainstream market early in the morning.