$71m loan approved for Karachi mass transport plan

Updated November 17, 2019

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The Asian Infrastr­ucture Investment Bank (AIIB) has approved a loan of $71.81 million for the Karachi Bus Rapid Transit Red Line project, which will provide an efficient and sustainable public transport system in the mega city. — AFP/File
The Asian Infrastr­ucture Investment Bank (AIIB) has approved a loan of $71.81 million for the Karachi Bus Rapid Transit Red Line project, which will provide an efficient and sustainable public transport system in the mega city. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Asian Infrastr­ucture Investment Bank (AIIB) has approved a loan of $71.81 million for the Karachi Bus Rapid Transit Red Line project, which will provide an efficient and sustainable public transport system in the mega city.

The AIIB — a new Chinese-sponsored multi-lateral financial institution that aims to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region — accorded the approval at a meeting of its executive board held at its headquarters in Beijing on Nov 11.

The components and planned activities under the project are: a 24.2km red line main corridor, a 2.4km section of common corridor along with all bus rapid transit (BRT) lines merging in the city centre, and off-corridor direct and feeder service routes connecting the corridor to communities; with the establishment of BRT operations, including procurement of compressed natural gas-hybrid fleet and systems.

According to the financing plan, the project will cost $503.33m, of which the Asian Development Bank will provide $235m, French development agency $71.81m, Green Climate Fund $37.20m with a grant of $11.80m, and Sindh government $75.71m.

To be launched next year, project is expected to bring revolutionary changes in public transport system

The project, which is scheduled to be launched in August next year, will improve public transport system in Karachi through efficient and safe connectivity and reduced journey times, and provide high-quality, accessible and affordable mass transport.

The deadline for completion of the project has been fixed by end of December 2023.

It has been anticipated that the new transport system would be able to carry 320,000 passengers on a daily basis, increase average bus commercial speed on the BRT corridors to 25kms per hour, and reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by using CNG-hybrid buses.

Karachi’s current transportation system cannot be considered fit for this purpose since it is characterised by long commuter trip times, rise of private and para-transit modes, weak traffic management and decline of public transport.

Services are currently provided by informal para-transit vehicles and about 4,000 privately owned and operated buses, serving 2.8m passengers daily. These weakly regulated services are irregular and lack designated schedules, stops and customer standards. Public transport drivers compete with each other and pull over to pick up passengers at will, or wait in place until the vehicles fill, which worsens congestion and impairs safety. Boarding the vehicles can be challenging, particularly for the elderly, children and physically disabled. During peak hours, it is common to see passengers sitting on the roof or hanging from the side of moving vehicles.

Vehicles in this informal network tend to be old and poorly maintained, leading to inefficient fuel consumption, increased emissions and higher operational costs. The services tend to be expensive for the urban poor, as customers must pay again for each transfer between services and modes.

Most women in Karachi do not take up employment far from home because of mobility restrictions resulting from cultural and social norms and security concerns. In particular, women are reluctant to use public transport system, mainly due to the risk of harassment they face in overcrowded public buses.

Consequently, most women prefer to walk, two kilometres per day on average, or are forced to use more expensive private transportation, which affects their disposable income. The inadequate and unsafe public transport system thus compels them to work close to home and restricts their labour force participation, which stands at 15.9 per cent in Sindh.

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2019