BRTs drive and lesson from the past

Sindh Minister for Information, Transport, and Mass Transit, Sharjeel Inam Memon along with Chairman Edhi Foundation, Faisal Edhi inaugurated Karachi’s second state-owned mass transit system, Abdul Sattar Edhi BRT (Orange Line) on Saturday. Talking to the media after the inauguration, the Provincial Minister said that Abdul Sattar Edhi BRT is now open to the citizens and the Sindh government had fulfilled its commitment to the people of Karachi.

According to him, the Sindh government completed the project with its own resources and fixed bus fares from Rs. 10 to a maximum of Rs. 20 to provide optimum relief to the public. Minister informed the public that the government will launch another project in the public transport sector very soon. According to him, the Orange Line will be connected to the Green Line soon and thousands of people will benefit from this modern service every day. Sharjeel offered loan/ subsidy to transporters to replace their old vehicles with modern buses and invited them to invest in the public transport sector.

The population of the country is increasing rapidly at the rate of 2 percent annually which prompted irregular growth of cities and caused multiple issues for the administrators including the provision of essential services including utilities, sanitation, health and education facilities along with traffic problems, and transport service in urban and rural areas. Meanwhile massive migration toward cities further added to these problems while the nations across the globe identified mass transit as a solution to multiple issues relating to traffic and intercity travel. Previously, Shehbaz Sharif as Chief Minister Punjab introduced first mass transit systems in Rawalpindi, Lahore and Multan. Although, PTI leadership criticized metro bus services in Punjab, but set up its own BRT in Peshawar, while PPP government in Karachi alos initiated similar campaign and inagurrated People Bus Service and Orange Line in Karachi recently.

Presently, a race is continuing among the rival parties ruling in the centre, Punjab, Sindh and the KP to set up mass transit systems, to initiate development projects on political ground and introducing spongy welfare schemes to attract masses ahead of General Election in the country.

In fact, billions had been spent in construction of routes, purchase of busses and recruitment of thousands of employees to operate and maintain bus fleets of these systems. Interestingly, all the mass transit systems are running in loss and provincial governments are compelled to allocate billions of rupees subsidies for these projects to keep them operational.

The towery BRT projects had become white elephants for the government but rulers are not ready to review thier doctrine to reduce national loss, while politicans are still committing such blunders with the nation for politics and publicity. Earlier, Government Transport Service (GTS) was started to provide cheaper travel to the public which was dissolved during 1990s after unprecedented loss to the national Exchequer, whereas the current leaders have discovered BRTs which are also contributing to the national debt.

According to experts, mass trasit infrastructure must be handed over to private sector and the government should regulate it only so wastage of taxpayers money can be stopped, otherwise these projects will repeat the history of Pakistan Steal Mills and the PIA in the future.