Karachi's dream of having a mass transit systems inched closer to reality as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif laid down the foundation for the Green Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on Friday.
The ceremony was held at Nazimabad's Annu Bhai Park, named after sports journalist Nawab Anwar Husain Annu Bhai.
Green Line BRT, which will run in segregated lanes, was initially planned from Surjani Town to Guru Mandir, where it was supposed to join the Blue Line BRT. But due to delays in the latter, the premier announced that Green Line will be extended all the way to Pakistan Chowk. The project, worth Rs16 billion, is being funded by the federal government.
The project infrastructure will be spread over 18.4km, of which 11.7km will be elevated while 7.7km will be on ground. The entire project is spread over 22km. There will be 22 stations along the route, with an average distance of 800 metres between each station. "I believe that the Green Line will be more beautiful than Lahore's metro bus service," said PM Sharif. He said he was glad that the project was launched in such a short span of time. "This project was extremely necessary to improve the transport system in Karachi," he said, adding that he has been assured that the project will be completed by April 2017.
The sudden extension in the project is likely to increase the project cost but EA Consulants, the firm hired to manage the Green Line, has yet to work it out, said the firm's Tahir Soomro. The project is likely to cost Rs7 billion to Rs8 billion more, said Karachi Infrastructure Development Company Limited (KIDCL) chief financial officer Bilal Memon. "Around 19km of the BRT was being built with Rs16 billion and the additional loop of around 12km will increase the cost," he said, adding that the Green Line will reach twice the number of people with this additional loop. "This additional loop will add 0.5 million passengers," he said.
Memon explained that the Green Line was supposed to end at Municipal Park on MA Jinnah Road but now it will go all the way up to Court Road. The additional route and design have yet to be worked out, he said.
After Court Road, the Green Line will turn left to Pakistan Chowk and touch II Chundrigar Road's catchment area. It will then go behind Sindh High Court and Sindh Secretariat buildings and land on MA Jinnah Road. Given the congestion in the central business district, Memon reasoned that the Green Line may not have a segregated path there.
Hoping to introduce more development projects in the city, PM Sharif said that work on Karachi-Lahore motorway project will connect the port city to other major cities of the country. "These are huge projects that will not only reduce the distance among people of different provinces but will also unite them," he said.
Work on the Lyari Expressway will begin in the next 15 days while water projects will also be initiated in Karachi, he promised.
Before the PM, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah also took to the podium to appreciate the PM's efforts. "The mass transit project was an earnest need of the people of this mega city," he said. Shah also requested the PM start the motorway project from Hyderabad instead of Sukkur so that more citizens can benefit.
Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan also thanked the PM for the mass transit project which, he said, was very significant for the development of Karachi.
Khan also requested the prime minister help the Sindh government complete other development projects, such as water and railway projects for Karachi. If Japan International Cooperation Agency is no longer interested in reviving the Karachi Circular Railway, the government should think about reviving it on its own, he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2016.