by Khaled Neimat | Mar 08,2012 | 00:02

AMMAN — The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is the best option for the capital to resolve its growing public transportation dilemma, but the project needs public support to win the “political” battle against it, according to local engineers.

In a seminar held on Tuesday to discuss the difficulties facing implementation of the BRT project in Amman, several engineers criticised authorities for putting the project on hold.

The multimillion dinar project, which the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) started to construct in 2009, entails operating premium, high-capacity buses on exclusive and segregated lanes that can carry more than 120 passengers and will run on a three-minute frequency during peak hours along Amman’s busiest corridors.

The project was halted last summer amid concerns over its feasibility and funding, and the Cabinet officially suspended it in September, halting all tenders floated for its future phases.

In December, on the basis of a parliamentary investigation into violations at GAM, Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh referred the case to the justice ministry to take the legal action it deemed necessary.

Ayman Smadi, director of the project at GAM, acknowledged that there were certain political factors behind the suspension of the project, saying “it is 100 per cent certain that the issue has been politicised, but we do not know what exactly is happening between the government and Parliament in connection with the BRT”.

“There was huge pressure from Parliament to halt work on the project,” he said, alleging that there were no valid technical reasons for doing so and that the BRT was used as a “scapegoat” by those who wanted to attack GAM’s management, including certain deputies.

Meanwhile, Mohammed Al Asadi, an architect specialised in urban planning, said public transportation is not just a service but a right of citizens.

“The right to transport is as essential as the right to healthcare,” he said.

Defending the BRT, Asadi noted that any public transportation strategy must include building a fast, comfortable and affordable mass transit system, indicating that the BRT is the best choice for a city like Amman.—-experts