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'Grand operation' to be launched next week to clear encroachments on Karachi Circular Railway

Updated November 24, 2018

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Ever since the KCR was abandoned nearly two decades ago, its tracks and stations have been encroached upon across the city, as seen here in Nazimabad.— White Star/File
Ever since the KCR was abandoned nearly two decades ago, its tracks and stations have been encroached upon across the city, as seen here in Nazimabad.— White Star/File

The Pakistan Railways (PR) will begin a "grand operation" from Monday for the removal of encroachments along both tracks of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), officials said.

The decision was taken after Justice Gulzar Ahmed of the Supreme Court ordered authorities to immediately removed encroachments from railway lines and revive the KCR.

Justice Ahmed, who was chairing a meeting at the apex court’s Karachi registry, said time should no longer be wasted in the revival of the KCR, which was abandoned around two decades ago.

Examined: Encroach if rich

Railways officials told DawnNewsTV they have already started the implementation of SC's orders and that they "will ensure the end of all encroachments".

Justice Ahmed, who is the acting Chief Justice of Pakistan in the absence of Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, had last week directed the city's deputy commissioners to remove encroachments to clear the route of the KCR as well as the land in their respective areas after the divisional superintendent of PR said that most of its land was encroached upon.

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 neighbourhoods. 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 the improvement of tracks and stations.

According to the Karachi Mass Transit Cell, 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.

'No hindrance will be tolerated'

Justice Gulzar Ahmed during the meeting directed the city's municipal authorities to continue the operation against encroachments without any break.

"Karachi should be restored to the state it was in 30 years ago," the top judge said. He also ordered that the parks and lakes in the metropolis be restored to their original shape by removing illegal constructions.

"No hindrance will be tolerated in the campaign to end encroachments," Justice Ahmed said.

The judge also chided Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) officials, saying they had acted as "facilitators" in the occupation of public places.

"Karachi would not have been in this condition [today] had you fulfilled your responsibility," he told them.

An official of the Karachi Development Authority (KDA) submitted a report to the Supreme Court regarding the operation that is currently underway against encroachments.

The director general of KDA said they had retrieved more than 5,500 plots that had been encroached upon.