The federal and Sindh governments have agreed to start trial runs of local trains within a 12-kilometre portion of the track of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) within the next two months and then plan.
The federal and Sindh governments have agreed to start trial runs of local trains within a 12-kilometre portion of the track of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) within the next two months and then plan how to synchronise them with the modern circular railways system in the next phase.
This decision was taken in a meeting between Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and Federal Minister for Planning & Development Asad Umer at the CM House on Saturday.
The meeting was held to devise a strategy for launching the KCR project, as was decided in the Council of Common Interests meeting, and to implement the Supreme Court’s orders to start local train projects in the city.
Shah said KCR was commissioned in 1964 and remained effective until 1984, adding that the service was completely shut down in 1999 because it had lost its operational efficiency.
He said that in 2006 the provincial government had approved the initial feasibility / PC-I for KCR’s revival to be undertaken through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica). He added that the revised feasibility / PC-I was prepared by Jica and it was approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) in 2012 for $2.6 billion.
The CM said Jica remained engaged for the project from 2006 to 2012, but unfortunately, the financing arrangement that was agreed on earlier could not materialise.
He added that given the stalemate on Jica financing, he took up the matter with the then prime minister on December 3, 2016, and requested him to include KCR under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework.
He also requested the issuance of a sovereign guarantee for KCR’s revitalisation, the handing over of the Karachi Urban Transport Corporation (KUTC) to the provincial government for KCR’s construction and management, and the handing over of the right of way (ROW) to the KUTC / Sindh government. Shah said the PM approved all his requests, and a committee was formed to seek options on the issue of the handing over of the ROW.
“The KCR loop has an overlapping section of 12km with the Pakistan Railways project ML-1 [Main Line 1, or the Karachi-Peshawar Railway Line] that was launched under the CPEC framework.”
He said he followed up on the matter with the Centre throughout 2017 and 2018. “I personally followed it up at every stage and have written a dozen letters to the federal government on the matter.”
He added that Ecnec had approved the project on October 6, 2017 for Rs207.6 billion ($1.97 billion) through Chinese loan, and the administrative approval of the project was issued by the Sindh Transport & Mass Transit Department on November 8 that year.
The chief executive said when KCR was brought under the CPEC framework, it was approved at a cost of $1.971 billion (Rs300 billion), and was supposed to be completed within 36 months.
It may be noted here that the total length of the KCR project is 43.13km, with 14.95km of it on ground and 28.18km of it elevated, it would have 24 stations and its per day ridership would be around 550,000.
The CM said the KCR project was accepted in the CPEC-related Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting on December 29, 2016, while on November 22, 2017, the JCC confirmed that the KCR project was technically qualified and mature for implementation.
He added that on December 20, 2018, KCR’s importance was recognised, while on November 5, 2019, it was decided that Pakistan would submit a financing request to the Chinese government for the project. “After this, no further progress could be attained.”
Umar said the Centre was serious about starting KCR at the earliest. He and the CM also discussed how to start local trains within the next few months, and if the local train system would synchronise with KCR’s modern railway system.
The meeting decided to start local trains within the 12km from the City Station to the SITE Area as a trial run in the next two months. They also decided to hire a highly professional consultant to determine how to sync the local train system with the modern KCR.
Railways Secretary Habibur Rehman gave a detailed briefing on the KCR project and the local train system, and discussed various options for starting the project.
Suggesting a three-phased plan, he said that constructing a single-line track, rolling stock, deploying human resources and operation would be part of the first phase. He added that the track’s dualisation, signalling, fencing, and constructing flyovers and underpasses would be part of the second phase.
Rehman said modern urban rail-based mass transit, transaction advisory services for public-private partnership, financial model, government model and cross-subsidy model such as land commercialisation would be undertaken in the third phase.
Sindh P&D Chairman Mohammad Waseem said all encroachments along the KCR route have been removed, adding that the provincial government would construct flyovers and underpasses where necessary as well as erect fencing along the route.
He said the provincial government would lay a sewerage system between the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science & Technology and the Depot Hill railway station, and make arrangements for proper disposal of industrial effluent from the SITE Area.
The CM said the Centre needs to decide if KCR will remain in the CPEC framework. “If yes, necessary measures should be taken to acquire the loan for the project. If no, other ways and means may be explored to start the project, because KCR is the only solution to the city’s transport problems.”
The meeting was also attended by Federal P&D Secretary Mathar Niaz, Additional Secretary Rafiq Chandna, KCR Project Director Ameer Mohammad, Railways Planning Director General Imran Mishal, Sindh Transport Minister Awais Shah, Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, Advocate General Salman Talibuddin, Karachi Administrator Iftikhar Shallwani, Commissioner Sohail Rajput, CM’s Principal Secretary Sajid Abro, Finance Secretary Hassan Naqvi, Transport Secretary Sharik and CM’s Additional Secretary Badruddin Shaikh.
Originally published at The news international