Research Analyst
July 06 - 12, 2009

Karachi is the financial and commercial capital of Pakistan and the city has a major transport hub. The Jinnah International Airport is the largest and busiest airport of Pakistan, which is located in Karachi. It handles 10 million passengers a year. The airport also receives the largest number of foreign airlines.

The largest shipping ports in Pakistan are the Port of Karachi and the Port Qasim. These seaports have modern facilities and not only handle trade for Pakistan, but also serve as ports for Afghanistan and the land-locked Central Asian countries. Plans have been announced for new passenger facilities at the Port of Karachi. The Karachi City Station and Karachi Cantonment Railway Station are the city's two major railway stations. The railway system handles a large amount of freight to and from the Karachi port apart from providing passenger services to people traveling upcountry.

There is a lot more needed to improve public transport system in the city. The government has given transport a high priority and it has been made a part of the Karachi Special Development Programme. The President has approved the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) (Bagota Model), to be implemented by the City Nazim. Two corridors have been developed in Karachi, one is from Karsaz to Habib Bank roundabout, second is from COD to Surjani town, and work on third corridor from Saforah roundabout to Empress Market is underway.


Provision of public transport/mass transit facilities is a key issue in Karachi, the largest cosmopolitan city of the country with a population of over 16 million and urban area of 3,500 sq. km. The number of vehicles in the city had increased to 1.7 million in 2007 while the numbers of trips were 24.5 million per day. About 90% of the workforce uses some form of public transport in the city. Although accurate information is not available, it is estimated that between 12,000 buses (mostly old buses) of different sizes and shapes ply in Karachi on around 254 routes, which overlap each other.

Through a number of studies, it has been established that the existing public transport system cannot serve the existing and incremental population demand in an effective manner and there are a number of problems associated with the system including unnecessary travel delays, severe traffic congestion, economic and financial losses, and environmental problems. The daily commuters face great hardships due to poor quality of transportation and substandard vehicles.

Environmental degradation due to noise and air pollution emitted by rundown buses is touching alarming levels in the city. The federal government has announced 500 CNG buses under public sector development programme for Sindh for this year. Currently, the work on CNG buses project for the Karachi city has come to a halt, as the Ministry of Environment has delayed releasing Rs 500 million to the Karachi Mass Transit Cell of City District Government Karachi in the outgoing fiscal year.


1 BUS 68 1990
2 MINI-BUS 145 6854
3 COACH 41 3012
Total . 254 11856
Various sources

According to reliable sources, the money reserved for the project, would be frozen, or returned to the Ministry of Finance, as the Ministry of Environment has not advanced the amount until June 2009.


In Karachi, the important flyovers have been completed, yet a number of them are in under construction for better transportation. The government of Sindh is taking steps for early completion. The city district government Karachi has recently directed the contractors for these public projects to accelerate the pace of work and try to complete them at the earliest.


The present government is once again reviving the long pending mass transit plan, which has been lying in the papers since 1976. According to official sources, the government has decided to establish a Mass Transit Authority and an Ordinance in this respect is likely to be announced shortly.

After thorough study, traffic survey, electronic model studies, and evaluation by the transport experts of international repute, the World Bank has finally recommended a Master Plan consisting of 87.4kms partly elevated exclusive Bus Ways convertible to Light Rail Track (LRT) at a later stage or directly as LRT on Built Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis.

The Karachi Mass Transit Plan divided into six priority corridors has been approved by the government of Sindh and federal government and endorsed by the World Bank. Detailed engineering, design, environmental impact assessment, involuntary resettlement plan, economic financial analysis, together with initiation of BOT process, will follow it. The government of Pakistan in the Gazette of Pakistan also notified this Master Plan.


Public transport system of Karachi is synonymous to imbroglios huddled with buses in ramshackle and overcrowding, which does not only lead to numerous road accidents but has also led to riots in the city. All these have been due to criminal neglect to improvement and development of transport system in Karachi despite mushroom growth in its population. The Sindh government should focus on and implement Mass Transit System in order to fulfill the needs of its growing population. This will help government achieve economic prosperity. There are many cheaper and easier options available: for example, Karachi Circular Railway along with proper bus services will meet the needs of transportation and manage traffic flows.