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Second Fully Functional BRT Service In Pakistan Now Serving Twin Cities Of Rawalpindi and Islamabad

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For many years, in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, commuting for three hours has become part of the residents’ daily grind. From the city of Rawalpindi, where people choose to live due to cheaper housing, they travel to Islamabad, where they work, and back to their homes and families in the evenings. There was no proper public transport or railway structure that existed between both cities and the available services were inadequate, inefficient, and substandard.

In June 2015, this all changed with the completion of the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metrobus system with 60 buses initially plying the route. Residents are now riding new and modern buses providing comfort and efficiency, and shortening their commuting time by half.

The Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metrobus is a 22.5 km (14.0 mi) BRT system that serves Rawalpindi and Islamabad. It uses dedicated bus lanes for all of its route covering 24 bus stations. It was inaugurated on 4 June 2015 by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif becoming the second fully functional BRT service in Pakistan after the great success of the BRTS in Lahore.

The development of this urban public transportation system begun in 2012, with a Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS) on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) for Islamabad supported by the Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA) in cooperation with the Islamabad Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the Infrastructure Project Development Facility (IPDF) of the Ministry of Finance of Pakistan.

The PFS concluded that the BRT was a viable public transport option for Islamabad. In addition, CDIA endorsed the idea that the Rawalpindi Administration should seek approval from the Government of Punjab to integrate the Rawalpindi BRT with the Islamabad BRT.

Following the PFS, the Islamabad CDA explored various options for financing the project with International Financing Institutions and private sector participation . In January 2014, it was decided in a meeting co-chaired by the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Chief Minister of Punjab that the project should be funded on 50:50 cost sharing basis by the Federal Government and the Government of the Punjab.

“CDIA support came at a very critical juncture for the CDA, as CDA was not able to attract sufficient public and private interest in developing an urban public transport solution in its previous endeavors. The PFS addressed the issue such that it not only provided a solution as it recommended the Bus Rapid Transit as a feasible and viable solution, it also helped CDA in developing a 10-year Urban Public Transport Policy with a 5-Year Action Plan addressing the issue of Sustainable Transport in an integrated manner. The PFS team also capacitated the CDA team to develop their expertise for the long term sustainability of the project,” said Mr. Azam Lodhi, Director of Traffic Engineering, CDA.

The BRT now caters to about 135,000 people per day, paying only Rs. 20 (US$ 0.20) for a one-way trip with ease and comfort while saving travel time without additional burden on their pockets, with female passengers benefiting from separate compartments. Click here to watch the video “Cities On The Move: Pakistan’s Transport Solution” featuring the BRT by Al Jazeera News on YouTube.

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