Despite the arrival of 40 new buses, the much touted Green Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system may hit yet more snags as its infrastructure and machinery rot in neglect despite millions billed for their maintenance.
Launched in February 2016, the timeline for the Green Line BRT project has been moved ahead several times. Five years on, the construction of the stations and tracks for the federal government's mass transit project awaits completion.
Meanwhile, the infrastructure and machinery installed at the cost of Rs27 billion suffer from lack of maintenance despite Rs300,000 charged daily by a private company for this purpose.
As many as 84 guards have been deployed to oversee the 22-kilometre-long BRT track but essential parts of the machinery have been stolen from several locations. In April this year, the Green Line BRT was slated for completion by August.
Sindh Infrastructure Development Company Limited (SIDCL) CFO Bilal Memon had told The Express Tribune that 21 stations had been constructed for the Green Line BRT corridor.
A 100 hybrid buses were to be imported from China - 80 for the Green Line and 20 for the Orange Line BRT projects by June, trials were to be held in July and the mass transit systems were to be made fully operational in August.
Read More: ‘Green Line BRT should start by Aug’
Then in July the authorities announced that the buses would reach by August 10, the infrastructure for the Green Line BRT till Numaish Chowrangi would be completed by August 30 and the system would be functional by October 10.
Last Sunday, however, as 40 shiny new green and black buses imported from China reached Karachi Port, Federal Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar said the project was yet two months away from completion.
It would take that long for the government to install the required software, train the drivers and set up the ticketing system, he said, adding that a second batch of 40 more buses is slated to reach the port city in five weeks. Meanwhile, the project's infrastructure suffers from neglect.
Dirt and garbage line the switch rooms and elevators built along the track. One station, near the Karachi Development Authority, serves as a garbage dumping ground while other stations are frequented by drug addicts and the homeless.
The track itself sits in dilapidated condition, yet in want of basic electrical wiring, repairs and drainage systems at various spots. It is also dotted with construction debri and garbage, which will take weeks to clear.
Electricity and internet cables are being laid on the track for the hybrid buses now between the Board Office and Haidery but the wiring is being done by digging up completed portions of the track.
This week, after the arrival of the first batch of buses, the Green Line BRT project managers buckled up and expedited the final touches on the escalators along the track between Nagan Chowrangi and the Board Office.
Commenting on the condition of the escalators, repairmen told The Express Tribune that only 25 out of the 70 escalators installed can be salvaged.
Too many essential parts of the remaining escalators are missing, they shared. On their part, the authorities have directed the contractor to ensure that at least six to seven escalators at various stops are made functional in the next two weeks.
Moreover, most of the stations completed thus far require repainting and finishing touches. The long-awaited mass transit project may yet be at least a few months away from completion given the state of affairs.
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