No future: As bus routes disappear, public transport hangs on the edge of abyss

Emergence of CNG rickshaws and Qingqis is the straw that broke the camel’s back, says official.

Sohail Khattak October 24, 2013
An overcrowded bus plies a thoroughfare in Karachi on Thursday. PHOTO: RASHID AJMERI/EXPRESS

KARACHI: The city has witnessed the disappearance of over 110 routes of public transport buses and minibuses in the last decade but the government has yet to lift a ban on the issuance of new minibuses routes, which was imposed after the Bushra Zaidi case in April, 1985.

According to the records of the Muslim Minibus and Coach Owners Association, there were a total of 140 minibuses’ and coaches’ routes in the city till early 2000 but now only 65 routes are operational. Similarly, larger buses had 60 routes till 2000 but now only 20 of them are functioning.

The bus owners remember the good times when the city had over 4,000 Bradford buses plying on nearly 60 routes almost 15 years ago. “Now only 350 of those buses are running on 20 routes,” said Karachi Bus Owners Association senior vice-president Jamshed Khan Lashari.

Back then, 80 to 100 buses were plying on each route but now even the busiest routes, such as 4-K and No. 20, have no more than 35 buses plying on each,” he said. Lashari admitted that the transport business is no longer lucrative. Some people have sold their vehicles in scrap while some have converted them into trucks, he said.

“Increase in fuel prices, vehicle prices, government apathy towards public transport and the law and order situation are the reason behind the closure of routes and the decline of public transport in the city,” said Lashari, adding that the emergence of CNG rickshaws and Qingqis was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Transporter Rab Nawaz believes that the ban on new routes and route permits for new minibuses has led to a culture of bribery in the traffic police department. “People who bought new minibuses when the route permits were banned had no option but to offer bribes to the traffic police,” said Nawaz, adding that most of the routes were closed due to a decrease in the number of buses, minibuses and coaches, which the transporters had shifted to other provinces or attained private contracts. The transporters are also reluctant to obtain new permits or bring in new vehicles.

Route permits for vehicles

According to officials of the transport department, to obtain a route permit a person has to submit an application to the Regional Transport Authority (RTA) secretary along with the vehicle’s fitness certificate, a registration copy, a CNIC copy and the fees. It usually takes two to three days to obtain a permit.

New bus routes

For new bus routes, an applicant has to submit his proposal to the RTA for the desired bus route. In addition, no objection certificates from the traffic police and Karachi Metropolitan Corporation regarding the volume of traffic on the roads and road feasibility for heavy vehicles is required.

The applicant must have at least 10 vehicles to start new bus routes. The RTA board, under the supervision of the Karachi commissioner and in the presence of representatives from traffic police and transport department, issues the new route after resolving the complaints.

“The ban on new route permits has still not been lifted since it was imposed by the then chief minister of Sindh,” said RTA secretary Muhammad Younus Dahri.

Transport department secretary Taha Faruqui told The Express Tribune that they had asked the transporters to submit their suggestions to improve the system of issuing route permits and the mode of public transport in the city. “Our department is working to launch a Bus Rapid Transit system in the city, which is one of the best solutions to the address the public transport shortage,” said Faruqui.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 25th, 2013.


Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ