PESHAWAR: A team of technical experts of a Chinese bus manufacturing company has arrived in the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to inspect the vehicles used by the city’s metro bus service after some of them caught fire recently, making commuters wonder if it was safe to travel on them.
Nearly a month after its inauguration, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service was indefinitely suspended on Wednesday after two more buses caught fire in the upscale Hayatabad locality of Peshawar.
According to the Rescue 1122 emergency service, there were no casualties and the fire that erupted in the air conditioning compartment was immediately extinguished.
“Yes, it was the fourth unfortunate incident in which two buses caught fire … Now a 20-member expert team of the bus manufacturing company has arrived from China to inspect our entire fleet and identify the causes of such incidents,” Muhammad Umair Khan, focal person for the BRT facility, told Arab News while declining to name the Chinese bus manufacturer.
Launched in October 2017 at an estimated cost of Rs49 billion, the 27-kilometer-long BRT corridor had to be completed within a span of six months. However, the project got delayed and missed at least four deadlines in 2018 and 2019.
The long-awaited service was inaugurated by Prime Minister Imran Khan in the second week of August who called it “the best metro bus service available in Pakistan.”
The provincial adviser on local government, Kamran Bangash, told Arab News that the BRT service was suspended on the recommendation of Chinese experts.
“The manufacturers of these buses have assured us that the service will be restored at the earliest. However, we cannot give any timeline and we will not take any risk until we get clearance from the experts,” he added.
Noorshad Wazir, a student at the University of Peshawar, told Arab News that the suspension of the service was creating problems for commuters, though he added that people were also scared to travel on theses buses.
Video footage of the latest fire incident was widely shared on social media, showing thick black smoke coming out of the bus last Wednesday.
Shortly thereafter, TransPeshawar, the company that operates the service, announced its suspension in “the best public interest” to ensure passenger safety.
Muhammad Nouman, who works as a laboratory technician in the city and frequently used the facility after its inauguration, said that the BRT was “mired in controversies such as poor management” from the outset.
“It saved many people from traffic congestion,” he said. “But now I seriously wonder if the project has provided us relief or compounded our troubles. I am also not sure if it will be safe for us to travel on these buses in the future.”
TransPeshawar has already acquired a fleet of 220 hybrid air-conditioned buses to cover the BRT corridor in the city.
“We will make sure to prevent such incidents in the future,” said the BRT focal person. “We will only resume the service after thoroughly checking all the buses and rectifying the problem.”