As the Covid-19 pandemic has affected development projects across the country, the Red Line Bus Project, which is part of the Karachi Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) System, was also hit with delays. In recent days, however, there has been a positive development in the project.
The loan required for the project has been approved by international donor agencies, and construction work on the project is expected to begin early next year.
Unlike other transport projects in Karachi, the Red Line BRT has been included in Prime Minister’s Karachi Transformation Plan. However, it will not receive funding from the Centre.
According to sources, the federal government has given a sovereign guarantee for the project but the Sindh government will have to repay the loan in 30 years.
Under the plan, the construction of the project was supposed to start in August 2020, but the project could not be started due to the suspension of business, social, and development activities due to the pandemic.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Sindh Transport Minister Awais Qadir Shah said the delay in the Red Line Project was not the fault of the Sindh government but it was only because of the impact of Covid-19 which slowed down activities across the globe.
“Despite the situation, the Sindh government continued its efforts using video conferencing and other means to get international donor agencies on board and successfully obtained a loan,” he said. “Thereafter, we immediately called for tenders for the Red Line Project to avoid further delays. This shows that the Sindh government was not sitting idle and was preparing the design and tender documents of the project while maintaining social distancing principles during the lockdown.”
He added that international law is being carefully observed on all matters, including scrutiny of the tender documents.
“We are trying our best to complete the tender process as soon as possible and begin the construction work at the beginning of 2021.”
Former project director of the Red Line Project Rasheed Mughal said the project would cost $493.5 million, adding that donor agencies would provide loans on easy terms.
“A sum of $225.3 million will be lent by the Asian Development Bank, while $71 71.81m will come from the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank. Meanwhile, the French Development Agency will provide 71.81m,” he said. “The Sindh government will contribute $75.71m to the project. To make the Red Line Project environmentally friendly, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) will also sponsor the project with $49m.”
He added that the project will also receive a grant of $11.8m, while the remaining $37.2m will be obtained in the form of a soft loan.
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved the plan last year, and international donor agencies approved the loan six months ago.
Rasheed Mughal said the Green Climate Fund (GCF) was also providing funds to make the project environmentally friendly, which would be spent on the installation of a biogas plant, drainage system and construction of a bicycle track.
“The most prominent highlight of the Red Line Project is that a cycling track will also be constructed from People’s Chowrangi to Safora Chowrangi,” he said. “For the first time in history, a third-generation BRTS is being introduced in which 10 public transport routes will be further connected to the special corridor of the Red Line bus project. Moreover, a biogas plant will be set up to supply fuel to the buses.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2020.