KARACHI: The federal government-funded Green Line bus rapid transit project is way past its deadline. Eight months and 11 days to be exact and it shows no signs of nearing completion.
Meanwhile, authorities have now set another deadline for December. This marks the sixth extension in the deadline for the project’s completion.
The main reason for the delays cited by the engineers and consultants working on the project is the lack of coordination between the federal and provincial governments.
In the meantime, it is ultimately the citizens of Karachi who have had to bear the brunt of traffic chaos amid the construction work.
Chief Finance Officer Zubair Channa of the Karachi Infrastructure Development Company Limited (KIDCL) – a department of the federal government – is confident that the new deadline will be met.
In an interview with The Express Tribune, Channa said that the civil engineering work on the project has been completed, 15 of the 21 bus stops have been built and 70% of the construction work on the terminal has been completed. The remaning six will be completed by mid-October, said Channa.
When The Express Tribune visited some of the construction sites to inspect the pace of work, we found that eight of the 21 proposed stations are in their final stage of construction. Work on another six has been carried out to a fair degree while the remaining seven have largely remained untouched. The bus terminal, under construction in Surjani Town’s Sector 4, has almost been completed. At the terminal, final touches are being added to the prayer area, administration block, offices, labour room and platform for buses.
Meanwhile, the underground fuel tank and washing area for buses have yet to be constructed. At this stage, according to Channa, buses can be operated in the corridor, but when this was communicated to the provincial government, they were unwilling to take over the project and start operating the buses.
For his part, Muhammad Athar, the managing director of the Mass Transit Authority – which falls under the Sindh government – told The Express Tribune that they were unwilling to take over the management of a partially-developed corridor.
“It is the responsibility of the federal government to build the whole corridor and only after reviewing the entire project’s records and documents through our consultant, will we take over the project,” he said.
The provincial government has issued a tender for the operation of buses along the corridor and expects 25 buses to arrive as soon as the first phase is completed. A sum of Rs90 million has been allocated for the procurement of the buses.
The Green Line bus rapid transit project, in its current form, was inaugurated in January 2016 by the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif. It envisaged a dedicated bus corridor from Surjani Town (Abdullah Motors) to Municipal Park (Jama Cloth) via North Karachi, UP Morr, Nagan Chowrangi, North Nazimabad, Sher Shah Suri Road, Business Recorder Road, Numaish and MA Jinnah Road. As per the original plan, the entire project was to be completed by December 2017.
Current status As of now, phase 1 of the corridor, running from Surjani Town to Gurumandir hasn’t been completed yet. Work on the second phase of the corridor at Numaish Chowrangi is marred by delays while the third phase, from Taj Medical Complex to Municipal Park hasn’t even been started yet. The Phase 1 of the project extends 18.4 kilometres, of which 11.7 kilometres form an elevated structure. Of the elevated structure, eight kilometres pass between Surjani to Nagan Chowrangi, while the remaining 3.7 kilometres comprise three flyovers on Sakhi Hasan Chowrangi, KDA Chowrangi and 5-Star Chowrangi.
The flyovers cannot be used by vehicular traffic as they are exclusively built for the Green Line buses. For normal traffic, the federal government has constructed an interchange at Board Office which was opened in 2017. The total cost of the project is estimated at Rs17.8 billion.
Sindh govt’s reluctance According to the Mass Transit Authority’s Muhammad Athar, the Sindh government will not take over control of the corridor until it is complete. He admitted that the KIDCL had submitted a few drawings and contract documents but some key documents were still missing.
These drawings would technically be considered submitted when they are given as built drawings of the structures, he said, adding that the provincial government would only take control after its consultant had satisfactorily carried out validation of the physical works.
Athar added, however, that the provincial government had prepared a rental plan on which buses for the Green Line and Edhi Bus Corridor would be run for the time being. As per the plan, the provincial government has allocated Rs90 million for 25 buses to be run on these projects.
The buses, 20 of which are for the Green Line and five for Edhi Line, would be procured as soon as the first phase is completed, he said, adding that bus operations would kick start if the federal government hands over the control by then.
Ultimately, the Green Line would incorporate 80 buses and the Edhi Line would have 12 buses on its tracks. However, the said buses would be procured in a separate consignment. The buses for the long-term basis would be procured on a build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis and would involve a private company.
A draft of the contract for the new buses has been submitted to Sindh Law department. If the contract is awarded, the private company would provide the buses within six months, he said, adding that the BOT project would involve the provision of 123 buses in all.
In the first phase, 98 buses would be supplied from which 80 would be used for Greenline, while 18 would be designated for the Edhi Line. The second consignment would comprise 25 buses which would be run in Saddar and its adjoining areas.
Citizens decry chaotic traffic jams
Once operational, the buses will start their journey from Abdullah Morr, where a bus stop had been constructed.
A bus will travel from the terminal to Abdullah Morr via a main thoroughfare that is currently under construction. In case of traffic jams, the bus driver may use inner roads within Surjani Town to reach the junction.
The construction work on this double road between the terminal and Abdullah Morr is a major cause of concern for residents. Muhammad Ahmed, a resident of UP Morr lamented that the construction work had been going on for quite some time. The busy thoroughfare connecting Surjani Town and Nagan Chowrangi is witness to regular traffic jams for the past couple of years due to the construction work, he added.
Mubarak Ali, who lives near Karimi Chowrangi in Surjani Town, decried the air pollution caused by the construction work. “The air is thick with dust and sand particles in this area,” he claimed, adding that they also had to contend with hours-long traffic jams just to commute to work every day.
“People have been facing difficulties due to the development of this project but we think these problems are just temporary” said Aslam Khan, who lives near Two-Minute Chowrangi. He expressed the hope that citizens would soon start deriving benefits from the project as it was near completion.
“It is a good step by the federal government. The population here is dense while the public transport is negligent,” he said, adding that, “after this corridor is complete, the passengers travelling from Surjani to Tower would have great relief.” With development work now being geared up, the bus stations would be completely built by December, Channa assured.
On May 3, the KIDCL wrote a letter to the provincial government, asking it to chalk out a mechanism to take over control of the corridor. KIDCL wanted to ensure that all records pertaining to the project were handed over to the Sindh government by June, this year.
The company has also submitted information pertaining to its drawings and inventories but the provincial government seems be reluctant in taking the control of the corridor, Channa claimed. He recalled that bus services started soon after the completion of civil works on the metro in Lahore, while the remaining development works were still underway.
“The benefit of the project would start reaching the public if we apply the similar practice,” he said. “It would also allow us to prompt the contractors to fix any faults discovered during the test run.”
Monitoring team ‘satisfied’ with progress: KIDCL
The monitoring committee of the Karachi Infrastructure Development Company Limited’s (KIDCL) board of directors, headed by Lt Gen (retd) Shahid Niaz and comprising the federal finance secretary Arif Ahmed Khan, CEO Sualeh Ahmed Faruqui and Ministry of Communications secretary Shoaib Ahmed Sidiqui, visited the Green Line BRTS site on Friday to inspect the project’s progress.
According to a press release issued by the communications ministry, the team visited the “entire corridor of the Green Line”, where they were briefed about the designs of the Numaish Underpass and other aspects of the project.
The statement claims that the “infrastructure component of main corridor from Surjani to Gurumandir is complete in all aspects and construction of 21 out of total 25 stations is in final stages”.
The team was also assured that the terminal would also be completed by the end of the current fiscal year. The committee, the statement reads, showed satisfaction with the quality of the work and stressed upon the KIDCL’s management to complete the work on the remaining stations without delay.