KARACHI: In a metropolis where public transport is synonymous with obsolete buses, a highly-touted rapid transit project has been marred by delays since it was unveiled in 2016, reports have stated.
The Abdul Sattar Edhi Bus Line, formerly known as the Orange Line, extends four kilometres from Orangi Town’s Town Municipal Authority (TMA) office to the Matric Board intersection. Buses were to travel on a 700-metre elevated track from the TMA office to Al Khidmat Hospital and 1.6km from Abdullah Government College for Women to Jinnah Women University. A 1.5km-long section of the Bacha Khan Flyover will be used along with normal traffic.
However, progress on the project has been halted at 60%. The project was originally slated to complete in June 2017. Later, the deadline was revised to May, 2018. But given the poor pace of progress, even the latest deadline seems likely to be missed.
The reasons behind the slow execution of the initiative include legal tussles, contractor woes and poor inter-authority cooperation. Add to that, shifting water and sewerage pipelines and the already poor flow of traffic on major thoroughfares.
Compounding problems further is the presence of major educational institutions, private hospitals, graveyards and the State Bank building in the area.
Separately, the construction of an elevated track remains incomplete due to the dreadful state of Sharae Orangi. The thoroughfare lacks carpeting in some areas.
Abdul Sattar Edhi Bus Line Deputy Project Director Rizwan Ahmed said work on the project was being carried out under two packages. He said two contracts were awarded after tenders had been floated. Ahmed said the project had first been delayed due to some matters then sub judice. The contractors did not fulfill the criteria specified, he said. The project director said the Sindh government had cancelled the award and appointed the second-lowest bidder.
He explained that the former had then obtained a stay from the Sindh High Court. A verdict was delivered in the government’s favour, 10 months later, he said.
Ahmed also blamed the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) for the delays. Time and again the board asserted that there were no pipelines in the project’s vicinity. They were discovered when excavations started, he said. Other engineers said the board did not have data on minor water and sewerage lines.
Superintendent Engineer Zafar Palejo said data on all major water and sewerage pipelines had been provided to engineers working on the project.
SMTA Managing Director Muhammad Athar said the Sindh government was striving to ensure that Sharae Orangi and the rapid transit corridor were constructed with international standards to facilitate smooth flow of traffic. He said Sharae Orangi was in shambles when the project was initiated. Athar said the project was being constructed in line with American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials standards. Athar said NESPAK had been tasked with supervising the project. He said contractors had also been directed to hasten the speed of the work.
The MD said a private transport company had been awarded the contract to supply buses for the project after it submitted the lowest bid. He said an agreement will be made soon and the vehicles could be imported as early as in four months.
Transport Minister Nasir Hussain Shah said he had directed the SMTA to hasten the speed of its work. He said buses would be imported as soon as possible. Shah said every effort was being made to ensure that the project was completed by May 15.