ppostnews: KARACHI: The Sindh government and Pakistan Railways have come close to removing hurdles in the revival of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) as the latter agreed to hand over a major portion of the railway track within the city limits to the province for “right of way” so that the long-awaited transport project could be revived.
The fresh development came during a recent meeting between Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique on the sidelines of the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) meeting about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects in Islamabad.
A senior member of the Sindh cabinet said that the two sides agreed to resolve the issues amicably on a fast track so the groundbreaking ceremony could be performed next month.
Groundbreaking ceremony due to be performed next month
“The subject [revival of KCR] was also discussed in the meeting chaired by Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal,” Sindh Transport Minister Nasir Shah said.
Mr Shah had accompanied the Sindh CM to Islamabad and also attended the JCC meeting.
“After that meeting, the chief minister took [up] this [matter] with Railways Minister Saad Rafique. The federal minister in principle agreed to our demand regarding handing over of a portion of the railway track right from the City Station to Drigh Road Station for the KCR.”
He said the issue was so important to the CM that he decided to talk to the Railways minister personally.
Answering a question, he said officials of both Pakistan Railways and the Karachi Mass Transit Cell (KMTC) would meet shortly to resolve all related issues once and for all.
The transport minister said during the JCC meeting the CM briefed the participants about the current status of the KCR and argued for support of the federal institutions to revive the project.
“The provincial government has started removing encroachments from the KCR route. The obstacles lie only with the Pakistan Railways which, we hope, would be resolved after the recent meeting between the chief minister and Railways minister,” he added.
The KCR was commissioned in 1964, originally to help employees of the Pakistan Railways travel between their jobs — at and around the City and Cantonment railway stations — and their residences in Karachi’s eastern neighborhood. The service became a full circle of 44km in 1970 and connected Karachi’s four main work areas: the port, the Sindh Industrial Trading Estate (SITE), the city’s central commercial areas such as Saddar and the Landhi Industrial Area.
The KCR remained the public transport of choice for the people of Karachi till 1984 when the number of its trains was reduced. Reasons for the move included lack of maintenance and repair, a yawning gap between rising expenditure due to higher fuel and operational costs and decreasing revenue due to subsidised tickets and the government’s inability to spend money on improvement of tracks and stations.
According to the KMTC, the number of level crossings — points where a railway line crosses a road or any other thoroughfare — also increased in the city, causing KCR trains to take longer to complete their journey. At one stage, there were 34 level crossings on the KCR route.
The KCR finally shut down in 1999, forcing thousands of its daily users to travel by buses.