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June 15, 2019

Govt earmarks Rs5.20 billion for transport and mass transit projects


June 15, 2019

Without completing a single transport scheme during the fiscal year 2018-19, the Sindh government dutifully repeated the same old transport projects that have been lingering on for several years as it announced the provincial budget for 2019-20 on Friday.

For the ongoing schemes of the transport and mass transit department, the Sindh government has slashed the budget by Rs1.6 billion compared to the last year and allocated Rs5.20 billion for them in the Annual Development Programme (ADP).

In addition to the aforementioned amount, Rs11.175 billion would be spent on the transport schemes through Foreign Project Assistance (FPA), according to the ADP document. The FPA for the last year was Rs599.7 million.

Ever-continuing projects

The provincial government-funded Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, which is a much smaller scheme than the Green Line BRT of the federal government whose first phase was completed 10 months ago, would again not see the light of day until the end of the next fiscal year, according to the ADP document. It‘s target month of completion now is June, 2020. Last year, it was June 2019.

The Orange Line project, which has been named after the late philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi, is only 3.9 kilometres (km) long. It starts from Orangi Town’s Municipal Administration Office and ends at the Matric Board Office intersection. This project was first reflected in the ADP of 2014-15 and was supposed to be completed by June, 2017.

The Red Line BRT is another major transport scheme for Karachi that has been allocated funds in the budget. The estimated cost of the project is Rs12.008 billion. This BRT line stretches over 31km all the way from Safoora Chowrangi to Tower. It was first included in the 2015-16 ADP, in which 85 per cent of funds for the project were to be arranged through a Chinese loan and the remaining were to be provided by the Sindh government.

In the 2016-17 ADP, the Red Line BRT was divided into three components, which were detailed design, capacity building, and operation and technical assistance. The project was to be partially funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Apart from the BRT projects, Rs5.01 billion has been earmarked for the integrated intelligence transportation system for Karachi with the target date of completion in June 2021. In the last year’s budget, the same amount was allocated for the project with 2019 as its target year of completion.

This year’s ADP also included funds for the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) project for the third consecutive time. The KCR was reflected in the 2017-18 ADP after a gap of several years. According to the budget document, fencing along the existing alignment of the KCR would be completed by June 2020 at an estimated cost of Rs230 million. Last year, the same amount was allocated for the purpose with the targeted date of completion in 2019.

In the 2017-18 budget, Rs241 million was earmarked for the construction of a fence along the existing alignment of the KCR as an ‘unapproved project’ with the completion date in June, 2020. The project was supposed to be jointly funded by the Sindh government and China. The project has now been included in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and its new detailed design was prepared by the Sindh government last year.

Projects like the rehabilitation of driver’s training schools under public-private partnership in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Larkana, and construction of bus terminals in Thatta, Badin and Kamber-Shahdadkot, which have been reflecting in the provincial budgets since almost a decade, have also been featured in this year’s budget once again.

New projects

Under the Karachi Urban Mobility project, another BRT, Yellow Line, has been included in the ADP as a World Bank-assisted project with an estimated cost of Rs5.25 billion and June 2022 as its targeted month of completion. In the 2017-18 budget, the shifting of utility lines for the Yellow Line BRT was included in the ADP as an unapproved project with a target completion date of June, 2020.

The Sindh Intra-District People’s Bus Service project for Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Larkana and Shaheed Benazirabad has also been included in the ADP with the target date of completion of June 2022 at an estimated cost of Rs2 billion.

Only on paper

Several intra- and inter-city bus projects were announced by the Sindh government during the past 10 years; however, they were removed from the later ADPs without completion. Some of them appeared in the ADPs for many consecutive years before they were omitted.

One of such projects was Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Diesel Buses programme that was removed from the ADP some years ago after it was featured in four consecutive provincial budgets.

The Larkana Intercity Project that included diesel buses was mentioned in the 2015-16 ADP as an unapproved project. The government had earmarked Rs100 million for 50 diesel buses for the project and set a target date of June 2016 for completion, subject to approval. In the ADP of 2016-17, its completion date was extended till June, 2017 and Rs250 million was allocated for it. However, after then the project went missing.

The 60 Intercity Bus Project for Karachi was also once announced in the Sindh budget as an unapproved project. If approved, it had to be completed by June, 2017 at a cost of Rs150 million but it was never actualised.

In 2017, the Sindh government announced the induction of 200 buses for intercity transport with an allocation of Rs500 million but it too never happened. Sindh Mass Transit Authority Managing Director Iqtedar Ahmed and Transport Secretary Ghulam Abbas Detho were not available for their comments.

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