Motorway network in Pakistan is scaling immensely and is very robust. Availability of road transport/communication system is an important pre-requisite for the development of a country. Over the past 2 decades, immense attention has been given to provide the masses with this facility. Government of PML-N has especially been interested in construction of motorways whenever it comes into power. This has not only become its slogan of development and performance but also a subject of criticism by the opposition parties. Such megaprojects are deemed to attract criticism for many reasons, political point scoring being one. These projects are not only costly but keeps the wheel of some big construction industries (cement/steal) turning. Since these industries are owned by big business tycoons some of whom may be near and dear to PML-N stalwarts. Thus such ventures are sometimes said to please friends and families.
In spite of the criticism, however, it cannot be denied that availability of good roads has made the life of different stake holders much easy. Following table shows the present and near-future status of motorways in Pakistan. As can be seen, most of these ventures were initiated/completed by PML-N governments of different times and hence the claims and criticism. However, PML-N can arguably take shelter in other development programmes and big projects like power generation, health/educated related ventures that are quite a few in number and have added to the wellbeing of the country especially during the past 5 years. Impartial analysis will reveal that significant development work has been accomplished during the years 2013-2018.
Criticism of political opponents aside, the fact remains that good road infrastructure, especially the highways and motorways have multiple benefits. Some of these benefits may not be recognized by journal public and some other stake holders. Some of the important benefits of good roadways are listed here.
- Travel Time & Convenience: One can easily imagine the time saving and convenience in the presence of good roads and motorways. I give here my own example. In the last decades of previous century, I have been travelling to Islamabad in connection with official business. I should ether travel by official vehicle that took 8 hours one way or use PIA Foker plane (flight period being around 2 hours plus time before and after, again almost 6 hours one way, calling official vehicle to and from the airport on both sides notwithstanding). For a meeting of 1-2 hours I would get a tour of 2 days approved and hotel accommodation for one night. One can imagine what all this involved in terms of TA/DA etc. as well.
Now with the availability of M2 and subsequently M3, a meeting in Islamabad is an inter-day matter with savings on personal as well as departmental level. Not only this, but viewing the fokers flying passenger-less to Islamabad, the service was discontinued again immense savings on the part of PIA and government.
- Reduced Wear/Tear of Vehicles: One can imagine this easily. Broken rough roads means broken vehicles on the roads. On the motorways and good roads one hardly finds a vehicle with broken “kamani”; this was an often view scenes before the advent of motorways. This also means improved security/safety of the travellers more so because of the availability of motorway/highway police and repair/maintenance services available in present times. Such a facility comes with the better roads.
- Goods Transport: It has become convenient especially for the transport of food items and poultry etc. Fresh produce even milk can easily be transported to far off areas within desirable time. This cannot be imagined in the absence of good road system.
- Personal safety of travellers: Better roads are less prone to accidents. Driving is safe and interference by unwanted creatures is minimum.
- Improved Public Transport: Today’s intercity public transport is available in first class and business class with all the facilities attributed to air travel in previous years. Beautiful buses and waiting rooms have become possible only because of the safe and comfortable road structures. It is not difficult to comprehend that investors in transport system will invest only if they find the driving safe in all respects. No one can afford to put a bus worth 10 million on a rough broken road. The present day motorways encourages the investors to bring best buses for the travellers. For traveling to Islamabad from Lahore and vice versa, one can easily opt for road travel instead of air as it not only saves time and money but the hassle to reach airports that are normally at an hour’s drive. Besides, those who do not afford to travel by air have the opportunity to enjoy plane like facilities on the roads; sightseeing on the way notwithstanding. Indeed rest area along the motorways have become picnic/leisure spots for the families with classy food chains etc. This luxury has become available to suburban residents who do not have such eateries in their towns. People get exposed to different developments. Bhera rest area on M2 is a good example.
- Connectivity: Motorways provide a good connectivity to different parts of the country.
- Environmental Safety: Saving on fuel and putting better quality transport on roads means less emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs). It has been recognized since long that burning of fossil fuels is the major contributor to emission of greenhouse gases especially carbon dioxide. Likewise incomplete burning of fuel and bad engines (characteristic of faulty and third rate vehicles) means high emission of smoke and particulate carbon leading to immense atmospheric pollution.
- Motorways as Runways: Last but not the least and of course most important aspect of good quality motorways is their potential use as air fields. Pakistan is amongst very few countries that used motorway strips for landing and take-off by fighter jets for refuelling. Presently there are 4 such strips that have been used for this purpose; 2 on M-1 and 2 on M-2. This is very significant use of motorways portions in many ways. Air strips are an expensive venture and motorways provide a good alternate especially when allied air force facilities are also established alongside these strips.
From the above brief review, it becomes apparent that better roads (motorways and speedways) are an integral part of comfortable transport system. Hence, there is no harm if a government endeavours to provide this facility to the masses. There are quite a number of avenues to be used as political gimmicks. One may like to leave roads and motorways on the side and let the country develop its basic infrastructure to the highest level both in terms of quality and quantity.You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ for more updates. Otherwise fill in the subscription box above, or subscribe to our RSS Feed.