Bus re-routing plan for Empress Market hits snags

Karachi: To improve the flow of traffic in congested Empress Market area of Saddar Karachi a holistic approach of re-routing of public transport buses and minibuses was announced in April last year, but the implementation of the re-routing plan has been put on the back burner due to want of political will.

The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) last year had announced that they had re-designed the routes of 46 buses and minibuses, barring entry of many of them in the area, besides banning all types of parking from Empress Market to Regal Chowk, so as to clear this congested residential and commercial area from traffic jams.

However, under the proposed re-routing plan, all public transport buses coming from Jinnah Hospital side would be returned making a loop at Lucky Star. All buses and minibuses coming from M.A. Jinnah would not be allowed to enter Saddar and instead routed to Saeed Manzil direction. Moreover, there would be ban on entry of Qinqi rickshaws in Saddar area.

According to the KMC, there are 22 routes of wide-bodied buses, 19 of minibuses, 3 of KPTS buses and 1 each of ‘coaches’ and UTS buses that pass through Empress Market Saddar area. Here public transport enters from five roads – M A Jinnah Road, Rafiqui Shaheed Road, Dr Daudpota Road, Iqbal Shaheed Road and Mansfield Street. Many bus routes use Saddar as their terminus thus dozens of buses are parked here creating crippling traffic jams. There is an illegal bus terminal of route G-3 minibus at busy Janahgir Park area running for last decade. The owners of G-3 minibuses have not only occupied the road but also broke the grill of Janahgir Park to use it as parking lot of their minibuses

However, despite passage of about 11 months the implementation on the Empress Market re-routing plan seems nowhere. Well-places sources said there is turf war going on between two powerful Bhatta collector groups in Saddar Empress Market area and government lacks courage to re-route the buses of this area, as bus operators also pay handsome Bhatta amount.

Due to this Bhatta factor, the government had also shelved its earlier plan of ‘Pedestrianisation of Saddar’. This is also the reason why the largest car parking plaza of Pakistan situation in the Saddar area is not being utilized, though the KMC is paying heavy salaries, electricity and other utility bills of this multi-storied parking plaza which is neither earning anything for the KMC nor facilitating citizens.

Interestingly not only citizens but the traders also want better traffic flow in the market areas by improving public transport system and ending Patharas encroachment culture.

President All Karachi Tajir Ittehad Atiq Mir said in Karachi commuting is a nightmare for ordinary citizens. He said traffic jams are routine in all market areas including the Empress Market and the government one day has to swallow the bitter pill of removing them. He suggested this politically difficult job be done early than late. He said about 40percent of Karachi streets are occupied by Patharas and other encroachments and some areas all width of footpaths and more than 70percent of road space is occupied by these Patharas.

He said the government should not only initiate re-routing of Saddar buses but also redesign the whole public transport sector on the city. He suggested that London public transport model should be studied to improve public transport system of Karachi, as the streets of London are generally narrower than Karachi streets but they never face any traffic jam issue due to better planning. He also asked to run Metro buses in Karachi on the pattern of Lahore.

Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Sindh chapter spokesman Mujahid Channa said the successive governments have proved their bias to the civic issues of Karachi, especially its public transport sector. Citing an example he said the vital Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) revival project has been lingering for long time. He said had the rulers sincere the KCR had been revived a decade ago. He said the government should take the busy area of Empress Market Saddar as a test case and after its successful bus re-routing this plan should be replicated in all busy market and residential areas of Karachi including Landhi-Quaidabad, Malir-Liaquat Market, Liaquatabad, Tariq Road, Haideri, Lea Market and Tower areas.

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