While the City Bus Service has finally started here after a long wait of seven years, the city was promised a lot more in terms of a regulated system of public transport to ease congestion on busy roads, especially in the form of the ambitious Personal Rapid Transit System (PRTS), also known as the PODS project, which was announced by deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal over two years ago, but the project is yet to see the light of the day.
While the Punjab government has proposed the Rs 500-crore Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) on the lines of a similar facility in Istanbul, Turkey, the PODS project, estimated to cost Rs 250 crore, was proposed on the lines of the one in London's Heathrow Airport. It entailed the use of a fleet of 210 six-seater cars floating 20 foot above the ground, in the first phase.
The cars were supposed to have the capacity to ferry around 6,000 people in one hour and were intended to ply between the stations at eight strategic points, covering the oft-frequented and most chaotic market places in the walled city area, which are important from religious, heritage and business points of view.
A number of committees were constituted to execute the project, but the project is yet to start in the absence of serious efforts in this regard. All that has been done in the name of initiating the project is laying of the foundation stone. On his visit to the city in January, the deputy CM had alleged that there were certain technical flaws due to which the project had been held back.
The failure of the government to start the project has angered the local Congress leaders. They staged a demonstration at the Hall Gate, near the site where the foundation stone was laid, on Wednesday.
Stating that the government had befooled the voters by laying the foundation stone of the PODS project in 2011 ahead of the assembly elections, the protesting Congressmen covered the foundation stone with a cloth.
"Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal laid the foundation stone of the PRTS (PODS) project ahead of the assembly elections in 2011. However, the project is yet to take off. Now again, with the Lok Sabha elections around the corner the SAD-BJP government is trying to fool the voters by laying the foundation stone of the BRTS project," said Dinesh Bassi, secretary, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee.
He lambasted the government and the MC for their failure in taking up development works in Amritsar. "The MC does not have funds to release the salaries of the staff. How will they undertake development of the city? The government is befooling the public by announcing such grand projects," Bassi added.
About the BRTS project
Besides a dedicated corridor intended mainly for low-floor buses, the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) project would be marked by the construction of an elevated road and a bridge. Out of the estimated expenditure of Rs 500 crore, Rs 250 crore would be contributed by the Centre.
Under the project, which would entail the use of 55 air-conditioned buses, there is a proposal to cover a 30-km route from India Gate (Attari Road) to Railway Station, Queen's Road, Crystal Chowk, Company Gardens, SSSS Chowk, Celebration Mall and Verka. There is also a proposal to construct a track from Court Road, Kitchlew Chowk, Rialto Chowk to Railway Station, Crystal Chowk to Bhandari Bridge and Elevated Road to Daburji.
When contacted, municipal commissioner DPS Kharbanda said the BRTS is a bigger and more beneficial project as compared to the PRTS. "The project would go a long way in changing the face of the city and the traffic scenario that currently rules the city roads," he said.