Karachi: The fanfare with which the transport department announced the re-launch of 16 new CNG buses died considerably on Wednesday as the vehicles are unfit to hit the roads.
Given the shortage of public transport options in Karachi, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and local government minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah had decided to bring back 16 CNG buses, which were lying abandoned at a garage in Surjani Town.
These buses were supposed to hit the roads earlier yesterday and ply on the route from Surjani Town to Merewether Tower. Initially, the delay was perceived to have been caused by the inauguration ceremony that was scheduled for 5pm yesterday evening.
However, two hours before their scheduled departure, these buses did not show any signs that they were ready to move. One of the drivers, Muhammad Hanif, admitted that his bus was devoid of a windscreen as well as side mirrors. Even the gears are not working properly, the water body is making noise, the hand brake is out of order and the washers are also leaking, he pointed out.
He reasoned that very few of the 16 buses were in working condition. “They may end up producing two or three well-conditioned buses in front of the minister and will forget about the rest later,” said another driver.
The driver pointed out that around 10 mechanics are needed to work on these buses for up to three hours and they will be good as new. “It’s a matter of will,” he said. “No one is willing to repair these buses.”
Meanwhile, Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) transport and communication department’s additional director, Nasir Mahmood, said that they have spent Rs10 million in the last two months to repair these buses. The engines and the bodies of these buses are ready and new tyres and batteries have been purchased, he added.
He felt the drivers were complaining because they had no idea how to operate these imported vehicles. Mahmood pointed out that the KMC funded the repairs of these buses and the private company, Green Metro, is supposed to operate them.
The manager of the bus terminal, Ashraf Awan, dismissed the delays on grounds that Wednesday was their first day of operations. The problems and faults of the buses will surface when the buses start hitting the roads, he said. “These are not brand new buses, they had been rusting for the past one year,” he added.
The green buses will be seen zooming across the city on days that CNG is in supply. The days that CNG stations are closed will be the days the buses stay at the terminal. “We don’t have any CNG filling stations of our own and these buses cannot run on petrol or diesel,” said Mahmood, adding that each bus has six CNG cylinders and can store up to 110 kilograms at a time. “At full capacity, each bus can complete four to five trips in a day,” he said.
For when these green buses actually do hit the roads, they are likely to make a small dent in resolving the huge public transport issues faced by Karachi residents.
Each bus will have 45 seats and will be able to carry more than 75 passengers at a time, said the manager of the bus terminal, Ashraf Awan. According to him, there won’t be any ticket counters like before. “Earlier, the government used to operate these buses itself,” he explained, adding that this time the conductors will be present in the buses to collect the tickets. They will charge Rs20 for the entire trip.
The buses will leave the terminal between 6am and 11am every day. They will hit their stops every 10 minutes. Between 11am and 8pm, the buses will arrive at 15-minute intervals, and the last bus will leave Merewether Tower at around 10:30pm. The route is spread over 26 kilometre from Surjani to Merewether Tower and the entire one-way journey will take around an hour and 20 minutes.