Rapid transit finds ‘support’ from unlikely source

Private transporters welcome govt venture to ‘taste the transport business’.

Our Correspondent August 02, 2012

KARACHI: Apparently the bus rapid transit system will damage the business of private bus operators, but the transporters support the project, believing it will show the government how difficult it is to run transport in current circumstances.

Often the private transporters are blamed for the downfall of Karachi Circular Railway and other government-funded initiatives. But Tawab Khan, the vice president of Karachi Transport Ittehad, thinks no transport system can survive without the complete overhaul of government policies. Talking to The Express Tribune, he went as far as to say he was actually happy about the introduction of Bus Rapid Transit System.

“Do you really think any public transport system can survive considering the recent hike in fuel prices,” he said. “Only someone who is involved with this business knows how we survive.”

The fares of private buses which make up a large chunk of the public transport system are not subsidised by the government – an issue that is often blamed for the poor condition of buses. Transporters say if the government does not subsidise the fares; it should at least fix the transport fares. At current level, the revenue earned does not allow them to add more buses to their fleet.

However, 18,000 private buses and coaches plying on the roads of Karachi bring into question the transporters’ claims. If the business is not so profitable, how are so many buses still running?

Tawab says this is because running a bus has become a family business. “We do make profits,” he said. “We make profits in shape of my educated son driving a bus, my educated nephew working as a ticket collector. This is how we save cost and that is my profit.”Some individuals own dozens of buses, but they have contracted them out to people like Tawab who run them as a family affair.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2012.