Islamabad - Though the government had shifted the blame for delay in the completion of Rs50 billion Metro Bus Project to the sit-ins of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT), yet the chances of the completion of project look dim even on the fresh deadline.

The construction work of twin cities metro bus project was formally inaugurated on February 28, 2014 and it was announced that the project would be completed within record 10-month time but it was delayed for a number of reasons.

However, on January 28 (Wednesday last), Hanif Abbasi, Chairman Monitoring and Implementation Committee on Metro Bus Project had said that the project would be completed by mid-February 2015 as it  was delayed because of weeks long sit-ins staged by PTI and PAT in Islamabad. It apparently looks that the management of the project would fail to meet the fresh deadline due to certain reasons.

The managers of Metro Bus are blaming the political parties for the delay but it is a matter of record that the design of the said project was changed from time to time that caused the delay of the project. Even some changes in the design were made in the present month, The Nation has learnt. Former MNA Shakeel Awan, a member of the oversight committee, said that the chief minister was not happy with the delay and now pace of work was expedited on it.

To a question, he said that the CM would travel through bus at the time of inauguration so they were trying to complete the project at the time of inauguration.

The city managers are perplexed over a recent development - where they have been asked by the Punjab government to sign an agreement on behalf of the federal government pertaining to controversial subsidy sharing formula for multi-billion twin cities metro bus project.

Earlier, it was decided that Punjab and federal governments will bear subsidies for the project on equal sharing basis to make it financially sustainable. The Punjab government has already been paying almost Rs5 million per day subsidy against Lahore metro bus project.

The Punjab Metro Bus Authority (PMBA) - the operator of Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro Bus Project - has sent the draft of agreement to CDA, contrary to the fact that the Authority has no legal position to sign it as it has no role in execution or operations of the project.

The CDA Ordinance 1960 says that CDA will be solely responsible for carrying out developmental activities within its municipal limits.

But, the authority had surrendered its right to construct Islamabad-section of metro bus project to Rawalpindi Development Authority - which is executing the project - following Cabinet Division’s direction.

Now the PMBA insists the CDA to sign the agreement but under what capacity, the city managers are unable to figure out.

According to draft agreement, the Punjab government wants sharing of subsidy - exact amount is yet to be worked out - not on equal sharing basis, as decided earlier but on the basis of length of metro bus track in twin cities. The length of track in Rawalpindi is 8.6 kilometers, while in Islamabad it is 13.9 kilometers.

The draft agreement says that now it will be shared on 38:62 ratio that is Punjab will share only 38 per cent of the subsidy amount while federal government will be sharing 62 per cent, though as per estimates general public of Rawalpindi will benefit the most from the project owing to its route. “The CDA has sent draft agreement to the Cabinet Division for its opinion over the issue,” said a senior CDA officer. He said federal government allocates subsidy amount under the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) and it is done following the approval from different divisions and federal ministries. He said though CDA had no mandate to sign this agreement.

Ozair Shah, General Manager (Operations), PMBA, talking to The Nation said a representative of the PMA is due to arrive Islamabad next week to hold a meeting with the CDA officials to discuss the draft agreement and to answer related queries. Shah refused to further comment on the issue, saying the draft was yet to be signed by the parties, Punjab and federal governments. “Each and every clause of the draft will be discussed in details and then it will be finalised. So far, it is premature to comment as no one knows what proposed clauses will be agreed or not at final stage,” Shah concluded. The PMBA has yet to work out tentative figure in terms of subsidy both the governments will be bearing to run this project. It was announced earlier that riders will be charged a flat rate of Rs20 for one-way trip.

“The PMBA will be able to ascertain the exact subsidy amount when it will complete the process of award of different service contracts related to the project with private firms,” said the office. Shakeel Awan talking to The Nation said that subsidy sharing formula would be on the basis of length of metro track and the federal government would have to show generosity.