Transport woes

04 Dec 2019

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IT is a matter of great shame that successive governments — federal, provincial or municipal — have, despite considerable financial help from foreign donors, failed to resolve transport problems in all major cities of the country. Be it Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore or Karachi, all mass transit projects are being subjected to delays, while the residents of these cities continue to be inconvenienced for no fault of their own. A cursory glance at their progress is enough to reveal that these projects — even if the work is ‘almost’ complete — are delayed not so much by the dearth of funds and resources as by political point-scoring and the sheer incompetence of the ruling elite.

As one PTI-led government in KP scrambles to manage the disaster of the Peshawar BRT, the other in Punjab appears to be delaying the launch of the Rs200bn Orange Line Metro Train initiated by former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif. The bidding process for the maintenance and operation of the Orange Line was restarted in July by the current dispensation because the leadership was unsatisfied with the earlier effort. It is deplorable that the people of Lahore should continue to suffer because of political rivalry and the government’s tendency to tamper with flagship projects initiated by past dispensations. Meanwhile, there are bureaucratic delays in the completion of the Islamabad Metro Bus Project, where 90pc of the construction work has been done. The relevant authorities seem to be passing on responsibility to each other, while contractors have halted work due to the non-payment of dues. Then there is the largest city of the country, Karachi, where no mass transit project announced by the past few federal, provincial or municipal governments have come to fruition. The Sindh government recently shelved a proposed Blue Line bus project due to the paucity of funds while ongoing construction work on the federally funded Green Line seems to have been stalled as parts of the city centre remain dug up and are inaccessible to commuters. However, the incomplete projects notwithstanding, the provincial government plans to start work on yet another project — the Red Line — for which around $400m have been obtained from foreign donors. These mass transit projects were launched for the public, but their shambolic management have only added to commuters’ misery. If only the authorities focused more on providing relief to the people instead of political point-scoring, the country could witness positive change.

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2019