The economic wheels still move slowly and the workforce continues to be dependent on foreign aid money. One of the ways to get these wheels moving, believe experts, is to invest on urban transportation
Although the private transport has mushroomed in recent years, the overwhelming dependence on public transport to move from one place to another is a matter of concern, considering the poor transportation system across the country. Lack of public transport in urban areas, especially in the wee hours of morning when people have to rush to their workplaces, has assumed grave proportions.
A well-regulated transportation system in Kabul and other provinces, with investments from private sector, can solve many problems of urban transportation, believe experts. It can also open up work opportunities for locals and offer good returns on investments.
“The biggest beneficiaries will be investors, besides the public,” says Najib Manli, economic expert. “For instance, if they plan to invest in Kabul city where 6 million people live, out of which at least 2 million people use public transport on daily basis, they will get tremendous returns on their investment.”
According to conservative estimates, on an average a family in Kabul has 7 members. At least 17 percent population is concentrated in districts and 83 percent live in the city. Most of them use public transport for their commuting needs. A large proportion of 6 million people living in Kabul city bank on a fewer number of Millie buses, which ferry them from one place to another. Commuters are left stranded on roads because of the abysmally fewer number of buses plying on the road. In Kabul, the areas worst affected by poor transportation service include Chelsiton, Darul Aman, Rishkhor, Kart-e-Sey, Macriyan, Pul-e-Charkhi, Kart-e-Naw, Ahmad Shah Mina and Bini Hisar.
People are disappointed with the government for failing to address the problem of poor public transport in Kabul. “Our senior government officials have luxury cars to go from one place to another, while common man struggles to catch a bus on the road,” says Fereshteh Hayat, of resident of Kart-e-Naw area. Her concerns are seconded by Abdul Manan, a resident of Pul-e-Charkhi, who has to reach university early in the morning. “I always reach university late because I never find bus on time,” says Mr. Manan. “The poor public transportation is a big problem for people in Kabul and we hope the new government will take it up with all seriousness.”
Public transport, in most third-world countries, is the responsibility of government. Government is supposed to provide transportation facilities to make commuting easier for those who cannot afford private cars. “But our government has failed to fulfill its responsibilities in this regard and it is evident by the poor transport system we have got,” says Sirajuddin Eisar, economic expert.
A well-regulated transportation system in Kabul and other provinces, with investments from private sector, can solve many problems of urban transportation, believe experts
To fill the void, a private transportation company, Life Star Al-Yousuf Transportation Company has started its operations with 60 small and big transport vehicles in Kabul city. The company aims to solve the transportation problems in a city where a large majority of lower and middle-class people bank on local transport for travelling.
Romal Kakar, Director of Life Star Al-Yousuf Transportation Company, told Afghan Zariza that the company started its operations in Kabul in the summer of 2014 with 60 small and big vehicles which ply on road between 6 am and 6 pm. “We plan to increase the number of vehicles to 200 that will cover all areas of Kabul,” said Mr. Kakar.
According to company insiders, the owners have invested 6 million USD so far, which is likely to go up by the end of this year. There are plans to extend the transportation service to other provinces as well and increase the number of employees to 400 in near future.
If the plan of extending operations to all 34 provinces of the country works out, job opportunities will open up for more than 14,000 people and transportation problems will be solved for millions, believe experts. And if more such transportation companies start operations, a large majority of youth will get jobs.
According to Mr. Kakar, small busses carry 22 passengers and big busses carry 60 passengers and each bus commutes 10 times a day. However, the problem of having common route for all vehicles is another area of concern. The lack of bus stations in Kabul city makes matters worse. Mr. Kakar says there are 17 bus stations in Kabul city, which are not sufficient for the number of vehicles plying on city roads.
Mohammad Younus Nawandish, Mayor of Kabul, in an interview with Afghan Zariza said the Kabul Municipality plans to build separate roads and ring roads for public transport inside the city to prevent traffic mismanagement. “There are plans in the pipeline and we are committed the address the problem of poor transportation in Kabul city,” said Mr. Nawandish.
Presently, Life Star Al-Yousuf Transportation Company owns 25 small and 35 big busses; drivers take monthly salary of 10,000 Afs salary and assistants get 6,000 Afs. “We have appointed a team of 12 observers who see whether drivers abide by rules of traffic or not and they report to us at the end of day,” says Mr. Kakar. Company buses have solved many transportation problems in Kabul city and ferry passengers at a reasonable fare of 5 to 10 Afs.
Millie busses, which were donated by India, Japan and Iran in initial years of Hamid Karzai’s government, are now lying defunct. Officials in Ministry of Transport and Aviation say most of these busses stopped because of unavailability of spare parts. More investments and more number of public transport companies are needed to get them rolling again.
With the new government now, people are hopeful that the problem of poor transportation will be solved. “We hope the new government will invest massively in public transport to create a smooth and hassle-free public transportation system,” says Ahmad Khesro, economic expert.
As per the Master Plan presented by Ministry of Urban Development, 90 km ring-road will be built between 2015 and 2025 that will significantly solve the transportation problems in Kabul and make life easier for people. “That is an ambitious project and we hope to see through it,” says a senior official in the Ministry.
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