KARACHI: As the federal government has started giving a serious focus on the revival of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) with a decision to reconstitute with better representation from the private sector, the railway workers are ready to revive the KCR project within six months from indigenous resources provided the government arranges funding and gives them a free hand.
The other day, the issue of KCR’s revival was discussed in a meeting with the Pakistan Railways held in the Prime Minister’s House. The meeting was told that KCR was an important national project and work on its revival would be started soon. When the government planners are looking for solution to revive the KCR on foreign funding and technology, Railway Workers Union Chairman Manzoor Razi has said that the engineers, technicians and workers of the Pakistan Railways are fully capable to make the KCR project stand on its two feet using indigenous sources, provided the government arranges funds, removes encroachments from KCR lands, giving the railway administration free hand and arrange required number of locomotives and rolling stock.
He said one of the main hurdles in revival in KCR is the flawed thinking of government planners that foreign loans and assistance is a must to revive this project. He said though foreign assistance and technology is welcome, but even without it the railway workers and engineers are competent enough to revive the project themselves. He claimed Pakistan Railways is fully capable to revive this project within six months using indigenous resources.
Manzoor Razi said the land, tracks, signal system, buildings of railway stations, platforms, rail crossing gates and other railway infrastructure is still intact and it just need repair and some replacement when necessary. He said if the Pakistan Railway engineers, technicians and workers given free hand they can run this KCR system within just six months without any foreign loan and assistance. He said years ago he had floated this suggestion to utilize the skills of our own workers and experts to revive the KCR, but the top bosses did not take it seriously and resultantly more KCR lands were encroached and even rail tracks from some areas stolen. He, however, said even then the KCR project is fully revivable from the indigenous resources and skills, provided the government shows political will. He said the process of procurement of engines is in advanced stage and the goods trains would hopefully be run within a couple of months. He said similarly the KCR loop could be repaired and rerun if the government gives green signal and arranges funds.
It is a sad fact that for more than a decade the vital socio-economic issue of Karachi, the revival of KCR has buried in bureaucratic red tape, and the government is delaying this crucial project of the capital of Sindh province, and financial and industrial capital of whole Pakistan.
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) was ready to finance this project through soft loans but the successive governments simply let this chance missed and bureaucratic delaying tactics virtually failed every serious effort to start work on this project, which if initiated and completed could solve the chronic public transport of this mega urban city
The KCR has a total route length of 43.24km out of which 15.68km is on ground, 23.86km elevated and 2.28km in trench with a 1.42km bridge in between. The total number of stations would be 24 including 10 on ground, 12 elevated and 2 trench stations. The system was supposed to use electric powered trains.
The planned KCR loop was from Nipa KCR Station to North Nazimabad KCR Station to Lyari, Machhar Colony, Saddar, Kala Pul at Mehran KCR station, and then rounding through PAF Museum Shahrah-e-Faisal and linking back to the Nipa station. The total length of the project would be 43 kilometres and one passenger would be charged for a full round of journey with maximum Rs.25, which means Rs0.5 per kilometre. It was planned that the KCR trains will be available after every five minutes. The estimated cost of the project was $2.6billion and its completion time 4 years. The project was first initiated by JJICA, and then its technical and financial evaluations were done from companies of Europe and USA on the advice of Planning Commission of Pakistan, spending millions of rupees. The KCR project was started in 1964 and it was a huge success financially. However, in later years political governments appointed corrupt and inefficient officers without merit who systemically failed this national project to befit private road-based public transporters and finally this mega project was closed down in 1999. The closure of KCR could be a good case study of political corruption in Pakistan.
In fact, the mega cities of neighbouring India are running successful local train system with the same old railway infrastructure left by the British colonial rulers in the subcontinent. The Pakistani planners can earn a lesson from Mumbai rail system which runs 2342 suburban train services daily to facilitate 7.24 million commuters, while for 20 million Karachiites there is not a single suburban train service.
Though after the partition of the subcontinent Karachi and Mumbai (then called Bombay) inherited almost same rail infrastructure the administration of Mumbai developed and expanded it successfully while the Karachi bosses destroyed it appallingly. Today the Mumbai rail system is a global success story with annual rider-ship of more than 2.64 billion), becoming the second busiest rapid transit system in the world. Here all local trains run on electricity from 4 AM until 1 AM. It is dire need that KCR revival issue buried in bureaucratic red tape should be reviewed again, treating it not a political issue but a human issue related to socio-economic life of millions of Karachiites. The development of Karachi should be treated not only the development of urban areas alone but also the development of whole Sindh and Pakistan.
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