KARACHI: The decades-old public transport problem of Karachi may inch forward towards some sort of mitigation by next year as the Sindh government on Wednesday announced that it was bringing a fleet of 250 buses on Karachi roads from February 2022.
The announcement comes as the federal government-funded Green Line project is likely to be launched next month and another bus rapid transport system (BRTS) — Orange Line — being built by the provincial government has entered the final phase of completion.
Sindh Transport Minister Syed Awais Qadir Shah said that the fresh supply of public transport vehicles would come from the national defence organisation — National Radio and Telecommunication Corporation (NRTC) — which would make first shipment of 50 buses by the end of January 2022.
“So by February 2022, we are very much hopeful that Karachi would be having this public transport service under the Sindh Mass Transit Authority (SMTA),” he said while talking to reporters after witnessing a signing ceremony between his ministry and the NRTC.
Contract signed with a national defence organisation for supply of buses, operations and construction of stations
Under the contract awarded by the Sindh transport ministry to the NRTC, the defence ministry organisation would be responsible for supply, operations and maintenance of buses and construction, operations and maintenance of bus depots and stations for the Sindh intra district peoples bus service project.
Six major cities transport system
“The Sindh government is solely focused upon providing safe, efficient and comfortable urban transportation system in major cities of the province,” said Mr Shah.
“In regard with the present situation of the intra-city public transport, SMTA has planned an integrated bus operations system as a solution to cater for the public transport demand in six major cities of the province namely Karachi, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Sukkur, Larkana and Shaheed Benazirabad.”
The signing ceremony was attended by dignitaries from the Sindh government, ministry of defence production, Consul General of People’s Republic of China and Consul General of Republic of Turkey.
The participants in the ceremony were told that in the first phase of the project, 50 buses would operate in the city of Karachi.
These buses will initially operate on 29.5-kilometre route from Model Colony to Tower and on 33-kilometre from Nagan Chowrangi to Singer Chowrangi.
A bus depot would be set up near UP Mor over 6.7-acre area and in the second phase 200 buses would run on six different routes of Karachi and one in Larkana covering area of 10.3-kilometre.
The Sindh government in the budget 2021-22 has approved Rs6.4 billion for the procurement of 250 diesel hybrid electric buses under Sindh Intra-district Peoples Bus Service Project for six major cities.
In September 2021, the provincial cabinet had approved to award the project to the NRTC for procurement of buses, development of infrastructure, establishment of depots, bus stops and operation of the public transport service.
“Not only this, but under a rough estimate we believe that the project would create some 3,000 jobs,” said Sindh transport minister Shah.
“The project faced some delay in the launch only because of situation which had emerged due to Covid-19 outbreak. But it’s better late than never. We also hope that this project will also generate revenue for the provincial government in terms of service tax. Once the project gathers pace, we would develop and expand bus depots and number of buses that would become a kind of fixed assets of the provincial government.”
Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2021