The two most recent agreements to set up a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Karachi have failed, and now it is the turn of the World Bank (WB) to throw its hat in the ring. The WB has agreed to provide financial and technical support for the construction of the Yellow Line BRT in Karachi and the establishment of an integrated BRT system. There has never been an iota of doubt that Karachi, a bloated megapolis, was in need of an integrated transport system in exactly the same way as there has never been any doubt that something similarly integrated was needed for solid waste management — and yet it has consistently failed to get past the project proposal stage. Attempts to revive the circular railway have been similarly doomed.
The aim of the project is to connect the six BRT lines but the government could not find the money — enter the WB. The WB is already a major investor in Sindh with projects currently ranging from $400 million for the Sindh Education Sector Project to the $50 million for reforms in public-sector management. Support by the WB does not come without caveats and it is only willing to fund the project if the provincial government develops the road infrastructure from Dawood to Chowrangi on the Malir Expressway.
There is already concern about the difficulty of integration of the BRT lines at Numaish and the WB now faces the task of resolving them — which no other player has managed to do thus far as a range of different and conflicting interests hedge the various projects around. A lack of joined-up thinking from the outset has dogged the BRT system which has too many strands for successful integration. For the WB the challenge now is to devise a rescue package that is going to take the best of what there is and cobble something together, but it is a daunting task. We wish them the very best of luck.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2017.
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