LAHORE, Dec 10: The new bus operation launched by the Lahore Transport Company in collaboration with foreign and local transport companies is yet to come out of the bumpy road allegedly laid out for it by students of various colleges.
Frequent ‘brawls’ over fare involving students and the bus crew inconvenience the general public as well as the bus operators.
Sources told Dawn that Foton (a Chinese transport company) and First Bus (a local company) had sought the Punjab government and the LTC management’s help for safety of their buses and crew.
They said the two companies had expressed their concerns in writing as well as orally to the authorities concerned after the students of Diyal Singh, MAO and Islamia colleges hampered the new bus operation at various routes by damaging buses and snatching cash from crew besides thrashing them.
They said the hooliganism of the students, who demand exemption from travel fare, had forced the bus operators to suspend or squeeze their operations for hours.
“The situation has forced the operators not to make any more investment on the city’s urban transport business. The Punjab government and the LTC will have to resolve this issue on a priority to ensure smooth and sustainable urban bus operation in Lahore,” an official commented on the request of anonymity.
He said the students in many incidents including two that took place on Friday damaged buses and beat up crew members besides depriving them of cash.
“Hardly a fortnight ago, a group of MAO College students stopped a bus of route No 20 and broke the LCD/TV installed in the bus and thrashed the crew to press the bus operators and the government for exempting them from fare.
“In another incident, the students of Diyal Singh College attacked a bus at route No 9 at Lakshmi Chowk and roughed up the crew. On Thursday last, the students of a college at Township thrashed the driver and conductor of a bus plying on route
“On Friday the students of Islamia College Civil Lines attacked a bus (route No 20) and beat up the driver and the conductor and deprived them of cash. Around same time the students of Diyal Singh College targeted a bus at Lakshmi Chowk and browbeat the crew which had to suspend its operation. The passengers were left high and dry,” explained the official.
He said the government, except getting criminal cases registered against the students, had failed to maintain a smooth bus operation in the city.
Speaking to this correspondent, Salamat Hussain (who was waiting for bus near Katchery Chowk) held the government responsible for the situation. “I daily travel on this route but seldom catch the bus in time because of delays caused by students.
“Last week while I was travelling, a group of students forcibly stopped the bus and thrashed the conductor and the driver.
They also roughed up some commuters who dared to intervene,” he narrated the ordeal while urging the authorities to take the matter seriously and ensure safe environment for the travellers as well as transport operators.
A senior LTC official claimed that the relevant officials had already taken up the issue with the Punjab government functionaries.
“Besides having meetings, the LTC management is also working on various modules such as fixation of special/discounted fare, award of subsidy to the operators and making effective the rules enforcement system,” LTC General Manager (Enforcement) Kamran Khan told this correspondent.
He said Foton and First Bus companies were operating 56 and 120 buses, respectively, on various routes of the city. “Foton will have 55 more buses in the next few days while a new Chinese company, Orbit, has also signed an agreement with the LTC to ply 200 new buses in Lahore. Another Chinese company, Amkai, has also entered into an agreement to run 575 buses in financial collaboration with the Punjab government,” Mr Khan said.
He said though the issue of students’ hooliganism had become a headache for the officials, the LTC management would resolve it sooner than later.
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