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Karachi transport problem.

Recently, there has been a lot of interest in the transport system of Karachi. The Prime Minister has given it a high priority and it has been made a part of the Karachi Special Development Programme which is being financed by World Bank and other donor agencies.

Karachi transport is synonymous with bad roads, overcrowding and speeding which does not only lead to numerous road accidents but has also led to riots in the city. All these have been due to the neglect to the transport system of Karachi despite the enormous increase in its population during the last forty years.

The population of Karachi is officially estimated at 5.6 million while according to another estimate it is about 10 million. The Identity Card Department has issued more than 10 million cards. The population of Karachi is increasing at a growth rate of about 6 per cent each year. The public transport has not kept pace with the increase in population growth rate. In 1988 Karachi Transport Corporation was running 500 buses on roads when there was a fleet of 3000. The rest are dumped. There are about 3000 mini buses, taxis 5000, private buses 1000 while the total road network is 7400 kilometers.

As it has been mentioned earlier the main problem with the Karachi transport has been the maintenance of road, overcrowding and speeding. As for the maintenance of road, twelve different agencies are operating which include KDA, KMC, KPT etc. For example Rashid Minhas Road which starts from Nagin Chowrangi to the Drigh Road. A certain portion is under control of KMC while others are under KDA, Cantonment Board. As the maintenance of the road is not under one authority, each authority looks after the road according to its own budget which falls far short of the requirements.

As for the reason for overcrowding, the system needs to be explained. Maximum passengers have to be carried by all buses because the owner tells the driver that he has to pay him at least Rs. 500/-per day and any amount above Rs. 500/-would belong to the driver. The owner has to do it because he borrows money to buy the bus in the informal market at the interest of 40 per cent. He can pay the amount if he can have an income of Rs. 500/- each month. Each justifies the other but the fact remains that bad roads, overspeeding contributes to injuries and death because of road accidents. Recently a young man who was going to his factory on his motorcycle for the night duly died because there was no cover of the port hole on the road.

These road accidents are increasing at the rate of 11 per cent while the population is increasing at the rate of 6 per cent. According to official figures there were 1,683 accidents in 1988 of which there were 533 fatal accidents. It is estimated that 51 per cent of pedestrians are involved in road accidents of which there are 26 per cent of school going children. The punishment for drivers are not stringent if we take into consideration the type of accidents which cost injury and even human lives. There are five hundred registered cases pending in courts. Another bottleneck is the delay in the courts when more courts are needed to deal with these cases.


It is against this background that the Karachi Mass Transit Study has been undertaken for the purpose of defining a mass transit system appropriate for Karachi. It has been made a part of the Karachi Special Development Programme which is being carried out with the assistance of the World Bank. The total amount required for the Mass Transit System of Karachi is estimated at 13 billion dollars of which 600 million dollars has been provided by the World Bank. The rest will be provided by the foreign and local agencies. The French Government is providing 4 million francs for the railway programme. A Special Prime Minister Evaluation and Monitoring Committee has been set up with Dr. Seema Alim, Dr. Tahir Soomro as Project Director and Mr. Javed Pasha as the Chairman.

The Mass Transit System would be on build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis. It implies that a foreign agency would build the mass transit system and operate it for a period of years. Once the foreign agency has recovered its investment it will hand it over to the local government or agency.

The Karachi Mass Transit Study has identified six alternative ways by which mass transit can be improved in Karachi. They include (i) the present system to continue with the growth in population (ii) low capital Bus plan when the distinction between mini and standard bus is eliminated (iii) Low capital bus with improved commuter rail when the bus routes provide feeder services to improved rail passenger service (iv) Bus ways which provide an extensive system of bus ways with stops at about one kilometer spacing (v) Light rail serving most of the major public transport corridors (vi) Rail Rapid Transit (Heavy rail or metro) would be an extensive heavy rail system serving most of the major public transport.

All these alternatives have their merits and demerits. What seems appropriate that parts of all recommended alternatives are included so that it meets the need of the Karachi Commuters.

What the study has not included is the need for compulsory training of drivers. Training Institutes have to be set up where training of three to four months course are imparted to them not only for the driving of the car but also in vehicle mechanism. Further in order to stop speeding a system of time keepers on all established routes has to be set up. The speed of public transport vehicles should be determined for each distance and should be monitored by each time keeper. Any breach by driver should be subject to punishment. In short, the redeeming feature is the awareness about the present dilapidated transport system. Now that present government has given it a high priority, and there are good chances of financial resources being organised, the Karachi Commuters may look for better transport.
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Author:Huda, S.M.
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Previous Article:Political outlook 1990.
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