Karachi in for pleasant surprise as 120 buses set sail from China

Published April 21, 2022
The consignment of buses for Karachi is being loaded on a ship at a port in China.
The consignment of buses for Karachi is being loaded on a ship at a port in China.

KARACHI: After more than 14 years of its rule, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government in Sindh managed to display some success in its civic administration on Wednesday as a consignment of 120 buses for Karachi and other cities of Sindh left China for the metropolis.

In what is being described as a rare achievement of the PPP government attained during its third term of governance, the development is expected to address one of the most serious problems faced by the metropolis.

The buses are expected to arrive within a month.

The provincial government remained under immense criticism over its failure to address fast deteriorating transport system of Karachi.

Sources privy to the development said that the Sindh government received a formal communiqué about the departure of two ships carrying a total of 121 buses from Port of Shanghai and Yangzhou Port, which would take a couple of days to arrive at Karachi Port.

Sindh govt gets a formal letter telling two ships carrying buses have left Chinese ports

A total of 250 buses are due to arrive within a month with second shipment and the last consignment of the order is expected to be dispatched by the first week of the next month, he added.

“It was in April 2021 when the Sindh government approved the procurement of 250 diesel hybrid electric buses for intra-district operation,” said an official. “Under the plan proposed by the Sindh transport ministry, it had been decided to get 250 diesel hybrid electric buses under the Sindh Intra-District Peoples Bus Service project.”

The imported buses would operate in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Larkana, Mirpurkhas and Shaheed Benazirabad.

The provincial cabinet had approved Rs8 billion for the procurement plan for which the transport and mass transit department had hired a professional consultant.

He said 240 buses would be running in Karachi while the remaining 10 buses would run in Larkana.

The other cities like Hyderabad, Sukkur, Larkana, Mirpurkhas and Shaheed Benazirabad would receive their share in second procurement under the Peoples Bus Service project.

The fresh development came at a time when Karachi’s public transport sector is on the verge of collapse because of sustained neglect and lack of follow-through in both government and public-private partnership projects.

The situation has also become a key point of debate among city stakeholders.

Only a few years ago the alarming situation was expressed in a report titled ‘Karachi: The Transport Crisis’, compiled by city planner and architect Arif Hasan along with Mansoor Raza and the staff at the Urban Resource Centre.

It says that a city of an estimated 22 million people currently has roughly 9,527 operational minibuses, as compared to the 22,313 buses it had in 2011.

Of 329 city bus routes, only 111 operational

The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation says that an additional 8,676 large buses are required to meet the shortfall.

Of the city’s 329 official bus routes, only 111 are currently being run; the others have been abandoned because “they are not considered lucrative by the transporters,” says the report.

With the recent launch of the federal government-funded Green Line bus service, the Sindh government’s Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit Service in its final stages and the fresh import of 120 buses for Karachi, many express the hope that Karachiites may get a relief in transport sector to some extent. However, the Sindh government still have a long way to go to mitigate the problem.

Under serious pressure of opposition parties and protests from both political and civil society organisations, the PPP government this time was forced to take up the matter more seriously.

“During 14 years of Sindh rule of the PPP, at least 19 times in different years the transport department made different pledges, proposed different plans and prepared tonnes of paperwork for introducing different public transport schemes for Karachi, importing new buses from different parts of the world and initiating public-private partnership schemes, but they all proved futile, publicity stunts or just fake,” said a source citing record of the Sindh transport ministry between 2008 and 2022.

“It’s for the first time that it has prepared a plan which is approved by the cabinet and formally, it is going to take place. These 240 buses for Karachi would be plied on 15 different routes of six different Karachi districts. Once the buses arrive, the next phase of their operation would be finalised.”

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2022

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