Karachi’s second bus system, the Red Line, needs two depots or garages where its 200 buses can be parked and maintained. The spots where depots were planned are being used by the Rangers but TransKarachi and the other authorities have been successfully working on solutions.
The Rangers were reluctant to move elsewhere given that they need to be close to their zones of responsibility for sensitive installations, so the Sindh government has had to find alternative land. Much of this problem was exacerbated by the lack of a long term strategic Karachi land-use plan, which would have factored in the needs of various institutions and government wings.
Karachi’s transport department originally had two bus depots, one at Malir Halt (Model Colony) and the other at Mosamiyat.
In the Model Colony area, there are two bus depots:
- The first one is the Model Colony Bus Depot specifically for the Red Line BRT buses. Trans Karachi manages its operations.
- The second depot is called Mehran Bus Depot, and it has been assigned for the buses of People Bus Services (PBS), which are red buses as well (but not the Red Line).
When planning started for the Red Line in 2018-19, the Malir Halt (Model Colony) and the Mosamiyat depots were proposed for its buses. But there was a hitch.
“Both of them are being used by the Rangers,” explained Pir Sajjad Jan Sarhandi, the general manager for Planning and Infrastructure at Trans Karachi, which is making the Red Line.
The Rangers have maintained their headquarters at the Malir Halt bus depot since 1992, when the operation against the MQM took place. (At that time, the government had to give the Rangers whatever space was available.)
“When the Rangers were asked to vacate the depots, they told us that the Malir Halt depot was responsible for emergency response in case of security concerns at Karachi airport,” he explained. The depot is also used for the security of Ojha Hospital, Suparco, and to maintain Shahrah-e-Faisal’s security.
(Aaj News reached out to the Rangers PRO and this story will be updated once their comments are received.)
“The Rangers requested an alternative location that would not affect their response time if Trans Karachi wants to relocate them.”
There were, however, two interlinked problems.
Problem 1: Access to the Malir Halt depot It was not easy for 200 buses to enter from the point on Shahrah-e-Faisal at Malir Halt Bridge. Entry was hindered by bridges and a service road.
One solution could have been to use PTCL land next to the depot as an entrance but that did not work out.
The government asked the Civil Aviation Authority for access because it owned a double road behind this depot. The CAA agreed. Now, the Red Line buses will use this road to reach their depot.
Problem 2: The alternate land that the Rangers had wanted for giving up the Malir Halt bus depot was behind the runway of Karachi’s airport opposite the checkpoint at Tank Chowk.
But the CAA said that this land had been theirs since 1908. They showed lease documents from the British era, which means KMC cannot own it. Additionally, the expansion of Karachi’s third runway was planned here.
According to Sarhandi, it was impossible to compromise on security, especially near the airport.
The Sindh government had suggested that the Rangers be given land near the Super Highway, but the Rangers refused. Multiple meetings were held to find a solution with the Provincial Coordination and Implementation Committee pitching in.
“We did this by negotiating with the Rangers for the 12.8 acre depot [at Malir Halt],” added Sarhandi. The Rangers were using the depot for machinery, soldier rest areas, and vehicle sheds. “We managed to squeeze them down to 2.8 acres, which gave us 10 acres to work on,” added Sarhandi.
The portion in front has been given to the Rangers, and the portion behind is now with Trans Karachi.
“We are currently redesigning the bus depot because the plot has become smaller,” added Ashar Lodhi, the director of transport and GIS at Exponent Engineering, which is the local consultant on the Red Line project.
The second BRT depot was supposed to be at the seven-acre Mosamiyat depot. “We faced the same issue with Mosamiyat when it came to the Rangers,” said Lodhi. There was no alternative land available and there was a lot of construction in that area, so Trans Karachi had to forego that plot.
|Red Line funding|
|French Dev Agency||$71.81m|
|Green Climate Fund||$49m|
Trans Karachi and the Sindh government then chose the old Alladin Park as the new bus depot. There are two plots of land next to Alladin Park, one is the park’s area which includes the Pavilion Club, and the other is a road that runs adjacent to it with a Sunday market.
Aladdin Park, now called Bagh-e-Karachi, is owned by the Sindh government, but KMC is managing it. It is a 72-acre piece of land, and Trans Karachi has been given 16 acres of it.
According to Sarhandi, in the future they will also accommodate Brown Line buses that pass through Rashid Minhas Road at this bus depot.
“Of the 16 acres of land we received, we will develop 12 acres underground while maintaining a green cover on top,” said Sarhandi.
“The entire 12-acre area will become a park and four acres will be exposed to the sky.” The plan includes a parking plaza and revamping the Sunday market. Some traffic and U-turn improvements will be needed on Rashid Minhas Road.
The Asian Development Bank has told the Sindh government it would like the Sunday market to be developed with grant money, rather than a loan. So this is being planned with KMC and the director-general of Parks. They want to feature a lake, jogging track, open-air cinema, art gallery, toilets, a safe space to play.
As the Red Line is being constructed on the road’s median strip, trees will be cut. This has attracted a lot of criticism. “However, I would like to say that this project is environmentally friendly and has received funding from the Green Climate Fund because it contributes to the environment,” added Sarhandi.
“I will not discuss how many private vehicles or how much pollution will be reduced because of this project. Instead, I will say that for every tree that is cut down, we will plant five new trees. We are also working with the KMC to create an urban forest in Aladdin Park, and we have already planted some trees there.”