IT is nothing less than tragic that Karachi, an ever-expanding city of millions, does not have a functional public transport system. It is a pathetic sight to see commuters packed like sardines in rickety, decades-old buses, jostling each other for space. Governments, both provincial and federal, have long discussed grand plans for rapid transit lines in the city, but commuters will believe them when they see them. At the end of last month, the president, along with the federal railways minister, inaugurated a local train from Karachi to Dhabeji designed to bring workers residing in the city’s outskirts to the commercial and industrial heart of the metropolis. With smart-looking coaches, the local service is a welcome addition, though a drop in the ocean. Many more such trains, operating at rush hour, are required to ferry students, workers and travellers across this vast city in safety and comfort. Ironically, the same day the president had inaugurated the local train, the Sindh chief minister told reporters he hoped the Karachi Circular Railway — once a reliable option abandoned due to official neglect — “would see the light of day very soon”. Citizens of Karachi are sick and tired of hearing that the KCR will return ‘soon’ as state functionaries keep making such empty promises ever so often.
If the state is serious about solving Karachi’s transport dilemma, all three tiers of government — the centre, Sindh and the municipal authorities — must put their heads together and decide upon a comprehensive transport plan for the city that merges the presently under-construction bus rapid transit lines with a revived KCR and local trains. As it is, construction on the bus lines is continuing at a snail’s pace, with major thoroughfares in the city dug up. The deadlines for these projects always seem to be pushed forward by a few months whenever the state is asked about them. Unless the stakeholders come up with a well-coordinated plan, the nightmare of Karachi’s commuters is unlikely to end.
Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2018