Changes in route, design further delay BRT Red Line

Published May 18, 2024
Commuters face problems on University Road as BRT Red Line construction work has been halted.—— Fahim Siddiqi /White Star
Commuters face problems on University Road as BRT Red Line construction work has been halted.—— Fahim Siddiqi /White Star

KARACHI: Economical and comfortable transport services remain a distant dream for millions of Karachiites travelling from the city’s different neighbourhoods to Numaish as new revision and changes in the route and design of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Red Line is going to further delay the much-awaited project.

Official sources said that the project wasn’t going to complete before June 2026 amid growing cost and “different challenges” that kept changing its original plan, which means hundreds of thousands of people using the University Road will continue to suffer for more than two more years.

They said that the fresh estimates and calculations of those actively involved in building the BRT Red Line had recently conveyed the authorities that they should not expect the Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded transport scheme to start service before June 2026.

“There are several reasons behind the revised deadline of the project,” said a source privy to the details.

June 2026 is set as new deadline, which officials say can only be met if all goes well

“First is the cost, which kept the construction frozen for several months. More than six months later the project remained unmoved amid devaluation of the Pakistan rupee and growing cost of construction material. Then there are issues of drawings which keep changing.”

The fresh changes emerged when the authorities, after failing to get a piece of land for a bus depot near Mosamiat decided to set up the facility on main Rashid Minhas Road over the area which was once used to be a recreational spot, Aladdin Park, the sources said.

Under this plan, he added, the route of the Red Line had further expanded and involved construction of more infrastructures on at least three-kilometre long piece of land.

The Red Line was launched in March 2022 and was estimated to complete within 30 months after its ground-breaking.

It is part of the Karachi Breeze — a plan of some 112.9 kilometres long BRT projects with five dedicated bus tracks. However, so far only two of the five lines, Green Line and Orange Line, could be made partially operational as the Green Line project is also incomplete.

With initial estimated cost of $493.5 million co-financed by the ADB, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the French Agency for Development, and the Green Climate Fund, the 26-kilometre Red Line would ferry passengers on dedicated track between Model Colony and the Numaish intersection via University Road.

In the second half of 2023, the contractors stopped the work in view of cost escalation, lack of required land, delay in designing and non-cooperation by the caretaker government of Sindh.

Although the development work was resumed recently after the new provincial set-up took over the charge following the Feb 8 elections, many believe it is “already too late” to meet the initial deadline.

Public nuisance

With massive construction activity in the city centre, a vast area is affected by the development work.

Housing six universities in the area, an average of more than two million people, including students of these universities, pass through the University Road daily amid dug-up roads, open drains and dust.

Their sufferings are unlikely to end for another more than two years after further delays.

“The new June 2026 deadline is quite conservative based on predictions of uninterrupted construction activities during the next two years,” said another source.

“The new deadline can only be met if all goes well, the construction remains uninterrupted and no other obstacle emerges. Otherwise, I fear it will be revised further.”

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2024

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