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SOPs for recruitment of metro bus drivers being prepared

SOPs for recruitment of metro bus drivers being prepared

RAWALPINDI: Two years after launching the metro bus service between Rawalpindi and Islamabad, the provincial government has started preparing standard operating procedures (SOPs) to hire drivers and impart training to them and to ensure contractors carrying out repair work on the elevated track took precautionary measures to avoid any accident.

The PML-N government introduced the bus service between the twin cities at a cost of Rs44.84 billion but the death of a female medical student on the track on April 29, 2017, exposed the performance of the Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) and the Metro Bus Authority (MBA) as regard to the training of the drivers.

Sameera, 19, a student of Shifa College of Medicine, was travelling to Islamabad when the driver pulled emergency brakes near the Rehmanabad bus station apparently due to some ongoing construction work on the track there.

Due to the impact, the bus hit a pole after which its door flung open throwing the student into the road. She was then run over by the bus, said the police. The student died on the spot.

After the incident, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif sent a team from his inspection cell which after visiting the site prepared a report stating that a lack of training to the bus driver and the repair work without any planning was responsible for the tragedy.

The Metro Bus Authority was directed to prepare an SOP for the hiring of trained drivers or training them before they started driving on the elevated route.

The total length of the metro bus route is 23 kilometres out of which 8.6 km comprises the elevated track in Rawalpindi.

A source in the Metro Bus Authority said 68 buses had been procured to operate between Rawalpindi and Islamabad but only 35 of them were currently operational. He said initially the number of passengers on the metro buses was less but the government canceled the routes for public transport vehicles from Saddar to Pakistan Secretariat and banned wagons on Murree Road. As a result, he added, a rush was seen on the metro bus stations but the number of passengers was still around 100,000 daily instead of the estimated ridership of 135,000.

He said under the original plan the Punjab government had to run 100 buses for 135,000 passengers daily and for this a depot had been constructed at Peshawar Mor to accommodate more than 100 buses.

Metro Bus Authority General Manager Uzair Shah told Dawn that the drivers had been given training before the start of the Metro Bus Service in Rawalpindi. However, he said, after the death of the student a standard operating procedure was being prepared for the hiring of drivers and their training.

“The inspection team put the fault on contractors who were carrying out a repair work on that section when the incident occurred. They should have installed a signboard or cordoned off the section with tapes so that the driver could see it.”

About the number of buses on the metro route, he said the ridership of Metro Bus Service had increased to 140,000 in recent days and more than 50 buses were operational.

When contacted, RDA Chief Engineer Ather Bukhari said contractors had to repair the track after rain to drain out the water. He said steps should be taken during the repair work for the safety of the passengers and others.

PTI MPA Arif Abbasi said potholes on the track were making it difficult for the drivers to ply buses smoothly. “The death of the student also occurred due to incomplete construction work and untrained drivers,” he said.

“Substandard material was used in the construction of the metro bus track and the RDA procured smuggled substandard bitumen of Iranian origin which was laid on the surface,” he alleged.

The MPA said he had raised a question in the Punjab Assembly about details of the receipts of the procurement of construction material but the PML-N government failed to reply.

“My question regarding the use of substandard construction material is still pending in the Punjab Assembly,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2017

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