Funds for rapid bus transit project likely in budget

Karachi: The success of Lahore Metro Bus project and huge political advantages gained by Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and his party, the provincial government has decided to launch rapid bus transit system in Karachi on urgent basis and in this regard necessary financial provisions are being arranged in the coming budget due on next Monday.

Last night Sindh chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah went Governor House and met Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan. Both the leaders discussed various matters related to the coming budget and agreed to give special focus to public transport issue of Karachi. It was decided that the lingering project of Mass Transit System would be initiated and in its first phase rapid bus transit system be practically on some selected routes to facilitate commuters facing immense problems due to lack of any organized urban public transport system in the city.

The Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) for Karachi would be comprised on different colour-based lines for the different areas of the city. Initially a 22-kilometer pilot project would be selected under proposed “yellow line” from Dawood Chowrangi to Numaish Chowrangi and Lucky Star via 8000 Road Korangi and FTC. It is expected that the project after completion would cater to the needs of 13,000 commuters per hour per direction.

Interestingly Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif wants to get credit of giving a metro bus system to Karachi. During his election campaigns, he had promised that if the PML-N government came into power it would launch a rapid bus transit project in Karachi.

It is learnt that Karachi’s BRTS will start under a public-private partnership model, which will be financially sustainable. With actual service expected to start by 2014, the first BRTS in Karachi will run on a 22.4-kilometre-track from Dawood Chowrangi in Landhi to Numaish Chowrangi in Saddar. The track has been named the Yellow Line and around 13,000 passengers are expected to use the rapid transit system every hour. The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) intends to recover the Rs2 billion cost of the Yellow Line by allowing advertisement rights to the bus operators at 21 stations along the route besides the travelling fare. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is assisting KMC in the bus rapid system, has also prepared a detailed Karachi Transportation Improvement Project report.

However, the history of organized public transport bus systems in Karachi is dismal due to rampant corruption, political interference and mismanagement. A well-organized Karachi Transport Corporation (KTC) having a fleet of hundreds of wide-bodies buses were closed due to huge losses after political appointments and massive corruption. Later, two city nazims, Niamatullah Khan Advocate and Syed Mustafa Kamal brought CNG buses with heavy spending of public funds, but ultimately their fate went not different from those of the KTC. Presently, dozens of CNG buses of KMC are standing idle due to lack of repair, no funds for fuel and some other reasons, mainly the lack of political will to give Karachi a respectable public transport system. The citizens apprehend that the project of rapid bus transit would also prove looting and wasting of public money if properly inbuilt mechanisms are not installed to save it from political interference, corruptions and mismanagement, the hallmarks of Pakistani bureaucratic system.