Karachi was perhaps the first city of Pakistan to have conceived of a mass transit system, but it will certainly be one of the last metropolitan cities of the country to have an operational bus...
Karachi was perhaps the first city of Pakistan to have conceived of a mass transit system, but it will certainly be one of the last metropolitan cities of the country to have an operational bus rapid transit (BRT) project.
It took the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) federal government three long years to procure the first batch of 40 buses for the Green Line BRT project, whose construction had started back in February 2016, when then prime minister Nawaz Sharif had laid down its foundation.
It was the city’s first BRT project that was supposed to be running by April 2017, if all had gone according to plan. The initial estimated cost of the project was Rs16 billion, funded by the then federal government of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz through the Karachi Infrastructure Development Company Limited that was formed particularly to look after the affairs of the Green Line project.
The company was later renamed as the Sindh Infrastructure Development Company Limited (SIDCL), and its scope was expanded to cover all the federally-funded construction projects of the entire province.
The Sindh government was supposed to procure buses and operate the Green Line BRT as per the initial plans. It, however, failed miserably in doing so. In 2016 the Sindh government signed a deal with a Turkish company, Al-Buraq International (Pvt) Limited, to procure buses for Green Line. After it failed, the provincial government signed another agreement the following year with a Lahore-based company, Crown Transport, with the same outcome.
In November 2018 the PTI-led federal government decided to procure the buses and operate the Green Line BRT for a few years, before handing it over to the provincial government. However, it took the PTI government three years to get the buses delivered for the first BRT line of the city.
In March 2019, during the first meeting in this regard, the SIDCL put forth a proposal for the BRT operations before the federal government that was accepted. On April 19 the same proposal was also approved in a board meeting of the SIDCL.
The approved project’s PC-1 was submitted to the federal government’s planning division department. Likewise, the World Bank, which has been engaged in the BRT, was asked to prepare the request for proposal.
The interested parties were asked to submit their proposals for the procurement of buses under public-private partnership, as the SIDCL wanted to hire an operator who would bring the buses and run them for a certain period.
Had everything gone well, the BRT operations could have started around February 2020, as the minimum time for the manufacturing of a bus is six months. Later, the SIDCL’s plan also failed. After the approval of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council, the company started a fresh procurement process.
An official of the SIDCL had said back then that there were chances that the operation of the BRT would start by the end of 2020, which did not happen. According to SIDCL Director Operations Abdul Aziz, the fresh procurement process started in mid-June 2020, “and the contract was awarded and signed in the end of December 2020”.
He told The News that buses have been procured from a Chinese company named Longton. He said that Daewoo and Longton will carry out the operations of the Green Line BRT for three years, while the federal government-mandated SIDCL will supervise the operations.
The construction of the bus depot in Surjani Town where these buses will be parked has been completed. He said that for a month or two there will be mock operations, and the drivers’ training will be conducted by Daewoo and Longton. The rest of the 40 buses will reach the city by next month.
As for the installation of the integrated intelligence transport system, he explained that the Turkish company Kentkart and Pakistan’s National Logistics Cell have been awarded the tenders. He said that the installation of cables has already been carried out.
The operations of the Green Line BRT will be from Surjani Town to all the way to Numaish, where the SIDCL has constructed two floor underpasses. On the intermediate mezzanine floor there will be space for passengers to sit, rest and shop, while the bus operations will be carried out on the lower floor.
Aziz shared that there is ample space inside the underpass where 18-metre-long articulated buses can make a U-turn. In the next phase the construction work up to the Municipal Park on MA Jinnah Road that is under way will be completed by next year.