Thursday, December 3, 2020

Karachi Circular Railway resumes after 2 decades

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Karachi Circular Railway, a previously defunct regional public transit system resumed its partial operations on Thursday after 20 years in the largest metropolitan of the country with almost 15 million people.

Federal Minister for Pakistan Railways Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed inaugurated the project. Talking to the media, he said the KCR would spread to other parts of the city after its initial launch which is set to cover areas from Pipri to the City Station. Initially, only four trains will run on the designated routes, daily.

The fair per route will be Rs. 30.  Additional monthly passes will be sold at Rs. 70.

Read more: Pakistan railways partially resumes train service after a loss of Rs. 10 billion

“Rs. 1.8 billion have been allocated for the project – out of which Rs. 17 million have been spent,” he said. “A KCR coach costs 9 lac rupees. 40 coaches have been refurbished so far” the Federal Minister told media.

Rasheed lauded the Chief Justice who in February of this year ordered the relaunch of KCR in six months’ time. The railway ministry and Sindh government were directed to work with stakeholders to remove thousands of encroachment structures including illegally built houses.

Karachi is a mega-city with a poor transportation system. There has always been a need for proper infrastructure relating to transportation in the city.

A surge in population and lack of a cheaper transportation before saw a need for reviving Karachi Circular Railway and revival efforts were proposed several times since becoming defunct, first in 2005 and then later in 2009.

Read more: Sheikh Rasheed takes a U-turn on railways

Both times however, the project remained unfulfilled due to lack of financial and proper political backing. In 2017, the federal government under PML-N put forward a substantial restoration package for the rail network of Rs. 27.9 billion.

Lack of cooperation along with delays and disputes with the Sindh provincial government led the federal government to cancel the package.

Encroachments remain to be a big barrier in reviving KCR as most of its land is subject to illegal occupation and under the hold of land mafias. An anti-encroachment drive started in May 2019 to clear areas for KCR’s reconstruction.

While addressing at the inaugural ceremony, Rasheed called out the powerful land mafia which he said had taken over the land belonging to the KCR. He stated that his ministry was fully cooperating with the Sindh government.

Read more: Pakistan Railways: Not being operated the way it should be – Chief Justice

Karachi Circular Railway was a brainchild of President Ayub Khan in 1962 for short intra-city travel to provide better transportation facilities to Karachi district’s growing population. It started its commencement in 1969 under the administration of Pakistan Railways and was operational for almost 30 years.

Lack of maintenance mismanagement of KCR led to its discontinuation by the end of the 1990s. Around the time of its closure the population of Karachi was over nine million.

The KCR project at this point comprises of a long track of 44 kilometers, and 30 kilometers of loop with 20 stations, and a 14 kilometer main line with five stations. Another 14 kilometer track, and an additional 12 gates will be installed.

Karachi Circular Railway is set to change the face of the transportation system in the city.

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