Bus(iness) as usual: You waited for the Orange Line. Now wait for the buses

Published: November 18, 2019
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Though the construction work on the Orange Line BRTS is near completion, citizens may have to wait another year for the buses to start running due to the Sindh government’s indecision regarding the procurement of the vehicles. Photo: Express

Though the construction work on the Orange Line BRTS is near completion, citizens may have to wait another year for the buses to start running due to the Sindh government’s indecision regarding the procurement of the vehicles. Photo: Express

KARACHI: Karachi has long yearned for an efficient mass transit system to abate the city’s acute public transport crisis. So when Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah inaugurated the Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project in 2016, it initially came as a source of relief to the teeming city of 20 million.

However, three years of back-to-back setbacks and delays have dampened much of that original enthusiasm and while the long-anticipated project has managed to crawl into its final stages, there is still no agreement over the procurement of buses for the much needed transport network.

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According to Sindh Mass Transit Authority (STMA) Managing Director Iqtidar Ahmed, approximately 70 to 80 per cent of work for the Orange Line bus network has been completed and the project will be ready by January of next year.  “The foundation for the pedestrian bridges will be laid in the next ten days, while the middle fencing is complete and work on two out of the four BRT stations has been expedited.”

However, despite the STMA’s promises of bringing the mega-project to completion in the next few months, there is yet no word on who will provide the buses to run on the new Orange Line network. As per the STMA MD, the chief minister has been sent two recommendations for the procurement of the buses. According to the recommendation, the buses could either be procured by the Sindh government itself or they could be paid for by the Sindh government and imported by the federal government along with the Orange Line buses. “It’s up to the chief minister; whichever proposal he chooses out of the two will be implemented,” Ahmed told The Express Tribune.

It is worth mentioning that the Green Line Bus Project, which stretches from Surjani Town to Jamia Cloth Market M A Jinnah Road, has been initiated under the federal government, which will render the project to Sindh government after supervising it for three years. The federal government will also pay for the procurement of the 80 buses needed for the project as well as bear the construction and operational expenses for the first three years of the project under its supervision.

Karachi. PHOTO: EXPRESSKarachi. PHOTO: EXPRESS

On the other hand, the Orange Line BRT project was initiated by the Sindh government that will bear all expenditures of the project, including the procurement of 18 buses and the cost of construction and operation.

The Orange Line BRT project, attributed to philanthropist Late Abdul Sattar Edhi, was initiated in June 2016 and was expected to be completed in years’ time with the construction of a 3.9 kilometer network. However, despite the relatively small scope of the project, Sindh government has been unable to build the network in the last three years while the incessant construction has been a source of nuisance for the residents of North Nazimabad, Orangi and Banaras.

The bus network runs through some of the busiest districts of the city; featuring seven eminent educational institutes–Jinnah Women University, Jinnah College, Homeopathic College, Polytechnic College, Matric Board office, Abdullah Girls College, and Inter Board Karachi–two private hospitals, two grave yards as well as the State Bank of Pakistan. Thus the delay in construction of the bus network has been a source of severe traffic jams and gridlocks in the city, which have hampered the productivity of the organizations in its proximity.

According to Ex MNA and Administrator Al-Khidmat Hospital Laiq Khan, Sindh government has failed to come up with a counter strategy for the issues created by the delays in the project. Khan further shared that Al-Khidmat Hospital is situated along the Orange Line route, which becomes a hassle for the ambulances and endangers patients who may require urgent medical attention. “Once a woman was forced to give birth on her way to the hospital while stuck in a severe traffic jam caused by the construction,” Khan shared with The Express Tribune.

Karachi at night. PHOTO: REUTERS

Karachi at night. PHOTO: REUTERS

A survey conducted by an Express correspondent reveals that the Orange Line BRT­–Orange Town Office to Matric Board Office– is constructed along Sharah-e-Orangi. The project has a system length of 3.8 kilometers, out of which the 0.8 kilometers account for elevation whereas the main network itself spans for a total of 3 kilometers, which is to be carpeted. The Orange Line buses will run at the Bacha Khan flyover with rest of the traffic and all major construction work for the Bus terminal near the flyover has been completed.

An Orange Line engineer, speaking on condition of anonymity, shared that the project’s civil infrastructure – bus terminal, two stations, and main corridor­­­ – is expected to be completed by the end of January 2020. “Lifts and stations of two out of the four stations have still not been imported, which could be a reason for further delay in the project, whereas the import of buses could add another year to Orange Line’s completion,” he revealed.

The project, according to the engineers, has two packages, which are assigned to two separate contractors. Package one includes building of two stations and elevated structures from Orangi Office to Banaras Pul. Meanwhile, the second package includes the reconstruction of Shahrah-e-Orangi, a bus terminal and two stations.

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The reconstruction of Shahrah-e-Orangi and the majority of the work for the construction of the station at the elevation has been completed. The foundation has been laid for the construction of stations at Orangi Number 5 and Abdullah College. However, the construction of Matric Board Office station is still in its initial phase and pedestrian bridges are also being constructed with every station.

According to project engineers, initial legal hurdles caused the Orange Line BRT project to be delayed by a whole year. “When the work commenced again, it was the leakage of sewerage and water lines and the non-cooperation of water board which became the next hurdle for us, but we’ve mitigated the issue using project funds,” a project engineer told The Express Tribune.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2019.

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