Karachi, despite being the 13th largest agglomeration of the world, has found it difficult to cater to the needs of citizens as far as means of transportation is concerned, thanks to the transport mafia which comprises of those who run minibuses, wagons, coaches and buses. This mafia, as a result of its manipulative and scheming ploys, has succeeded in obliterating major transportation projects like Karachi Circular Railways, tramways and green bus project, over the years.
There was a time when Karachi Circular Railway was at its peak, 104 trains ran daily, 90 on main tracks and 14 on loop line. Nearly 3 lakh commuters traveled on the KCR everyday. But after 1994, only one train ran on loop line and in 1999 KCR operations were completely discontinued. Karachi tramway is a story not different from that of KCR. In 1975, the 90-year-old tram network was closed down as a result of mismanagement and ill-planning.
Being a student, when I inquired about the reason behind an exceptionally insufficient number of University buses for students in NED University (an Engineering University in Karachi), I was informed by the Vice Chancellor that the government wants the public transport to be used more by students. This shows that how cunningly this mafia has fallen foul of other modes of transportation in the city.
Buses, wagons and minibuses have not only become a nuisance for the travelers but they have also caused serious health hazards to them. Apart from noise pollution and air pollution, the congested and overcrowded environment of these buses has made the life of commuters difficult. Moreover, their reckless driving and careless attitude towards the passengers has caused the loss of many lives over the years.
According to a particular study, “majority of Karachi’s urban public transport (81%) is composed of low capacity (27/32 passenger’s carrying capacity) minibuses and coaches. Therefore, the ratio of available seat capacity on public transport to the population in Karachi is 1:40 as compared to 1:12 in Mumbai and 1:8 in Hong Kong. This compels the commuters to travel in overcrowded buses, exposing them to serious hazards while travelling on roof-tops, foot boards and rear guards.”
The solution to all these problems lies in the alternatives. Karachi Circular Railway must be launched as soon as possible. A mass transit based on modern rail system can also be worthwhile in reducing the dependency on road transport. Such projects may serve to provide quick, comfortable, soothing and environmentally friendly rides to the commuters at affordable fares. Moreover, they can also be a solution to ever-growing road-traffic problems in the city.