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KARACHI: Sindh Transport Minister Nasir Shah has claimed that a mass transit system for Karachi will be completed in the next three to four years.

He made this claim during the Sindh Assembly’s Question Hour that pertained to transport and mass transit department on Tuesday.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement lawmaker Qamar Rizvi asked about any plan to bring buses for the Malir-Tower route that could serve around 30 per cent of Karachi’s population.

Despite govt help, city transporters uninterested in operating new buses

The minister responded that 10 buses had been brought under a public-private partnership project and 20 more were expected soon on the Dawood Chowrangi-Tower route.

To another question by the same lawmaker, the minister said that the government was planning to bring over 600 buses for Karachi and another 600 inter-city buses. He, however, did not give any time frame and said all these buses were expected to come on the roads “soon”.

Pink buses for women

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf legislator Seema Zia asked whether the government had any plan to bring buses exclusively for women.

The minister replied that currently there were separate compartments for women in buses, but at a later stage the government had plans to introduce “pink buses for women”.

To another question by Ms Zia regarding the route permit fees collected in the past five years, the minister said that over Rs278 million had been collected by the government.

Responding to a question by MQM’s Irum Farooque regarding separate buses for physically challenged people, the minister said that such buses were not available in the country, but the buses to be brought under the bus rapid transit system would have this provision so that people on wheelchairs could easily board the vehicles.

When Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani recalled that he travelled in trams during his childhood in Karachi, the transport minister said that the government was implementing a neighbourhood improvement project in cooperation with the World Bank and Asian Development Bank under which trams would also be brought in to ply in Saddar and adjoining areas.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz legislator Sorath Thebo asked why the Sindh government was causing a delay in bringing buses for the federal government-sponsored Green Line project despite the fact that all the federal funding/works, as announced by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, had been made available.

The minister said that the prime minister had been misinformed, as anybody could just travel along the Green Line route and witness that a major portion of the 18-kilometre-long corridor had been dug up and roads had not yet been completed.

He said that the Sindh government, as and when the corridor/infrastructure was ready, could bring the buses “in no time” as all the process had been completed.

Centre blamed for delay in KCR launch

Responding to a question by MQM legislator Rana Ansar regarding the Karachi Circular Railway project and when would it become operational, the minister said that the Sindh government wanted to perform the groundbreaking ceremony on Dec 25, 2017 but the federal government/Railways was delaying the process.

He said that an anti-encroachment operation launched by the Sindh government was called off on the request of the Pakistan Railways, which feared that the cleared land might be encroached again by the time the work on the project started.

He said that the 43-kilometre-long KCR would cost around $1.97 billion and it would be completed in three years after the work started.

The KCR had been included in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and would be constructed by a Chinese company to be selected through a competitive process from a list of three firms by the Chinese government.

To a question by PML-Functional legislator Nusrat Abbasi as to how much profit the Sindh government would share from the revenues of the 10 buses, the minister did not give any expected amount or even the profit-sharing formula and said that there would hardly be any profit.

Responding to a question by PTI legislator Samar Ali Khan regarding issues in bringing new buses, the minister said that despite the fact that the Sindh government was providing/arranging subsidies, loan, insurance, etc, a large number of transporters were reluctant to come forward because they felt it was not a profitable business.

Responding to a question by Ms Ansar regarding the Mass Transit Authority, the minister said that a 13-member mass transit authority board/governing body had been set up.

He said the transport minister was its chairperson with mayors/administrators of Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur as its co-chairpersons. He said although separate meetings were being held between different members, a first full board meeting was yet to be held.

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2018