Mass-transit transport in urban Pakistan starting to get a facelift
Why mass-transit transport – BRT buses and MTR trains – are necessary for large cities.
Exclusive: Pakistan’s urban mass-transit transport is starting to get a facelift.
In a matter of three years (2013-16), citizens in three of its large cities – Lahore (12 million), Rawalpindi-Islamabad (6 million twin cities combined) and recently-inaugurated in Multan (5 million) – were able to travel in clean, safe and air-conditioned Metro buses on dedicated road tracks on a 20¢ fare which is a fraction of what commuters pay in the developed world.
But we don’t need to get too self-congratulatory.
With the current infrastructure, in a population of over 200 million, fewer than a million a day will be able to ride these BRT buses.
Three small-length Metro bus routes in three cities only means that a large – very very large – population still uses public transport which is unreliable, decayed, unsafe and hurts your self esteem long before you reach your school, university, office or get back home.
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In spite of the small scale, Metro bus is a good beginning.
And Pakistanis look forward to the whole country being wired in a network of mass-transit buses, Metro trains and intercity rail.
15 April: Faisalabad newest city to get Metro Bus BRT. Civil works to start soon. Service to start by summer of 2018.
29 March: Asian Development Bank (ADB) agrees to provide Rs 50 billion soft loan for Peshawar’s Rs 57B Metro bus rapid transit (BRT).
20 March: Punjab CM Shehbaz Sharif launches 14 feeder routes that will run 200 automatic air-conditioned buses connecting passengers from areas around Metro bus stations spreading 129km.
10 Jan 2017: PM Sharif issues directives to connect the Islamabad Metro Bus with the New Islamabad International Airport. The project may cost Rs 18 billion and will add 14 bus stations along the route – from Peshawar Morr to New Islamabad Airport.
The new Metro Bus service will be inaugurated by PM Sharif on 14 August along with the inauguration of the New Islamabad Airport.
29 Dec 2016: The sixth meeting of the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) in Beijing approves inclusion of these mass-transit projects in CPEC framework: Karachi Circular Railways and mass transit railways projects in each of the provincial headquarters to facilitate millions of people.
25 Nov 2016: PM Sharif arrives in Ashgabat on a two-day official visit to Turkmenistan. Sharif is leading a Pakistani delegation to the first-ever Global Conference on Sustainable Transport – 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – being held at Ashgabat under the auspices of the United Nations.
Then, these are road and railway transport routes being developed from scratched or upgraded under CPEC. Source: Bloomberg
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City traffic with 200 people:
177 cars 🚙🚗🚕🚓
200 bicycles 🚲🚲🚲
3 buses 🚍🚍🚍
1 train 🚎
Why we need mass transit #metro pic.twitter.com/s9NyJFLGaA
— Wali Zahid (@walizahid) May 15, 2016
The next in line of mass-transit projects is Lahore’s 27km Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT, a Mass Rapid Transit, or MRT, project).
Built at the cost of Rs 154 billion, the train service is set to launch in December next year. Over 200,000 people will travel by Orange Line train every day through 26 train stations.
OLMT is currently facing delays because of a court order stopping civil works near 11 heritage sites that need to be protected. A review is under way.
One additional feature will be provision of free public WiFi service through 192 hotspots in three Punjab cities running Metro buses including Metro stations. PTCL is managing this WiFi service.
Then comes Karachi’s 21.7km Green Line Metro bus service (BRT) at a cost of Rs 24.6 billion through a federal grant. The fast-paced construction work is in progress, with half of civil works now complete.
Green Line is set to start service by end of 2017. Nearly 350,000 passengers will use the service daily through 25 bus stations.
Green Line in Karachi (population: 20 million) is likely to be followed by 26km Yellow Line Metro bus service (BRT), a Sindh government project, at a cost of Rs 14.4 billion.
The Yellow Line will be financed by a Chinese loan (70 percent) and built by a Chinese firm, CUEC. It will start service by end of 2018. About 150,000 passengers will use the service daily through 24 bus stations.
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In October 2016, the federal government’s Central Development Working Party (CDWP) approved to conduct an engineering design of the Peshawar BRT project at a cost of Rs 1.25 billion.
The provincial KPK government had to seek CDWP’s approval due to the Rs 32 billion project’s foreign funding.
In its sixth meeting at the end of December 2016 in Beijing, the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) approved inclusion of these projects in CPEC framework: Karachi Circular Railways (KCR) and Mass Transit Railways (MTR) projects in each provincial headquarters to facilitate millions of people.
More on Pakistan’s travel infrastructure
Take a Metro bus from Pindi to Islamabad and pay 20¢
Lahore awaits its Orange Line Metro Train
e-ticketing on Green Line train from Islamabad to Karachi
Karachi to get Green Line bus service by end-2017
Karachi may have Yellow Line bus service in 2 years
PM inaugurates Multan Metro bus service
In Lahore, the Metro bus service – the first in the country – was inaugurated on 10 February 2013.
The 27km Lahore Metro cost Rs 30 billion. Through 27 stations, nearly 200,000 passengers travel on Lahore Metro BRT buses every day.
In Islamabad, the 23km Metro bus service started on 4 June 2015. The inauguration went five months behind schedule because of political protests.
The Islamabad Metro cost Rs 44.7 billion. Through 24 stations, nearly 135,000 passengers travel on Islamabad Metro BRT buses every day.
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While this BRT road and MRT train infrastructure is being built, the Pakistan Railways have tried to fix some of the intercity rail services.
E-ticketing has started on all railcar trains between Lahore and Rawalpindi and on Green Line Train from Islamabad to Karachi.
The Green Line train which covers 1,521km in just over 23 hours is creating an on-time reliable service. A reliable on-time train was unthinkable only a couple of years ago.
To upgrade the main railway line (ML-1) from Karachi to Peshawar including dualisation, the Chinese government and Asian Development Bank (ADB) have agreed to to lend Pakistan $8 billion. This is massive.
- The size of loans and financing
- Government subsidies on mass-transit services
- Repayment of loans
- Maintenance of infrastructure, buses and trains
- Upgrading, extension of infrastructure, buses and trains
- Security of infrastructure during political protests and terror attacks
- Improper use of free public WiFi
Have you seen CPEC & OBOR stories on this blog?
CPEC fact sheet: 2013-2017
16 CPEC projects in Balochistan, 8 in KPK: Chinese Embassy
Chinese Embassy shares progress on CPEC projects
40 CPEC projects in 4 photos & 60 seconds
CPEC gets 4-layer security as Gwadar to be weapon-free
China’s world-reshaping One Belt, One Road (OBOR)
Which cities next?
So, which cities need to be next in waiting for mass-transit transport?
If population is any criterion, Hyderabad and Sukkur in Sindh; Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sargodha and Sialkot in Punjab; Peshawar in KPK; and Quetta in Balochistan make the cut.
An authentic estimate about population in these cities is difficult to obtain as census hasn’t been conducted in Pakistan since 1998 for unknown reasons.
The UN estimates Pakistan as the sixth most populous country now (190 million) and in 2050 (310 million).
With a GDP of $270 billion, Pakistan is world’s 40th largest economy by GDP and 26th by GDP PPP. It is forecasted to grow to become 18th largest economy by GDP in 2050.
As part of China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, the north-south $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) connecting Chinese city of Kashgar bordering Pakistan’s north to Gwadar port in the south perhaps could set this city and intercity transport network in motion as a byproduct.
If this happens, the Pakistani landscape may look very different and semi-developed when the CPEC comes to full fruition in 2030.
By Wali Zahid
Wali Zahid is a futurist, disruptor, blogger, social media strategist, reformer, LinkedIn writer and author of iBook, Great Training in 10 Steps.
He runs a #Pakistan2050 hashtag on Twitter and appears on national TV on issues of significance to Pakistan.
On walizahid.com, he’s writing a series called How We Messed Up Pakistan.
Wali recently gave a keynote at the Managing Megacity Karachi conference by George Mason University USA at University of Karachi, supported by US State Department.
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