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The agreement between Albayrak Group’s Platform Turizm and the Punjab Masstransit Authority (PMA) concluded on an ugly turn owing to Lahore Metro Bus driver’s strikes, The Express Tribune learnt on Thursday.

Turkish contractor, Platform Turizm, has declined to continue Lahore Metro Bus operations in absence of drivers.

The company has informed the authority that it cannot recruit new drivers for a week as the new operator will take charge of the metro bus operations from September 8.

Despite uncertain conditions owing to drivers’ strike in the last days, a spokesperson for the Turkish contractor said the 9-year long journey with the Lahorites has been a source of joy and pride.

“We have successfully provided the transport facilities to the netizens of Lahore during this time. We worked as pioneers to establish the mass transit operations in Lahore ensuring the international standards and best possible services. On daily basis, we have been providing state-of-the-art travelling facilities to 150,000 passengers in Lahore,” the spokesperson said.

She highlighted that during hard-hitting times of the pandemic, the company continued its operations while ensuring the safety of commuters and staff by strictly implementing coronavirus standard operating procedures (SOPs) advised by the authorities.

She further said: “This is a matter of immense pride for us that a large number of Pakistanis took interest in working with Albayrak Group. We created economic opportunities for them and they, in turn, gave their best to ensure the quality of metro bus service for Lahorites.”

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However, it is saddened for us that during the last few days of our service, she lamented, the illegal strikes of the drivers incited by some instigators resulted in the suspension of the service and caused great inconvenience to the public.

She further said: “We have always had an open-door policy for our hardworking and dedicated employees who have been nothing but a source of pride for us. However, the demands of these protesting drivers were not merely illegal but also illogical. We reiterate that we do not owe any arrears to any of these drivers,” she claimed.

“As we have completed our project, we are nothing but grateful for the extraordinary opportunity to serve the people of Lahore. During this nine-year-long journey, Albayrak’s Platform Turizm and its employees learned a great deal from interaction with the public, the Punjab Masstransit Authority and the Punjab government,” she concluded.

Meanwhile, a senior official of the PMA disclosed that the authority has cordial arrangements with Turkish contractors as the new contractor had little delayed its operations. But drivers’ strike had badly hurt these arrangements which resulted in that now Lahore Metro Bus operations will remain suspended for commuters till September 8 as new operator was completing arrangements to take over metro bus operations.

Instead of taking to the streets and cause inconvenience to the general public it would be better if drivers take up their issues through dialogue. Now they have to move the court to get their issues resolved since Turkish contractors claim that they have no arrears pending, he said in response of a question.

He highlighted that the authority had initiated training of new driver as it is a normal practice around the world that whenever transport operator changes there is some gap in operations.

Meanwhile, a local contractor has geared up to take over the Lahore Metro Bus service operations for the next eight years.

Speaking to The Express Tribune on Sunday, PMA General Manager Syed Uzair Shah disclosed that a local operator, Veda Transit Solutions, is all set to take over Lahore Metro Bus service operations in a couple of weeks.

He highlighted that the new contractor had already procured 56 18-metre-long articulated buses for mass transit operations.

“The new contractor – a Raaziq Group company – is awaiting registration of buses and inspection through the Vehicle Inspection and Certification System. It is a matter of a few days, after which the PMA will formally inform the Turkish contractor to wind up its operations,” he revealed.

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