KARACHI: Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has said that Pakistan Railways and the Sindh government will make the Karachi Urban Transport Corporation (KUTC) functional together.
Speaking at a press conference called by him at his camp office here on Wednesday following an official high-level meeting with the chief minister of Sindh and other government officials, the railways minister said that they had agreed, in accordance with the orders of the Supreme Court (SC), that encroachments around the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) tracks would be removed within the next 30 days.
“We had been thinking of ending KUTC but seeing the interest of the SC in seeing it functional, we have also thought about reviving it. And the KCR is a part of it,” he said.
“Most of Railways land along the tracks has been encroached upon. But out of the 140-foot-long area along both sides of the tracks we are only clearing up to 50 feet, which we need. Meanwhile, those sitting on the remaining 90 feet just know that it is Railways land that they are encroaching on, and we may take back that too when we need it,” he said, adding that they would be installing fence pickets along the tracks for safety.
“We will decide in our next meeting how we are to accommodate the affectees of the anti-encroachment drive. Whether they are to be given an alternative place to live or if they are to be given money, we will decide next month,” he said.
The railways minister also said that the KCR comes under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) agreement and work here would pick up pace after $2 billion from China came in.
“I also want to clear here that the railways and the Sindh government are on the same page. As the KCR is an issue of Karachi, therefore, the Sindh government wants things to get moving more than even the railways. And we are with them,” he said.
“We have also decided on setting up a committee of grade 21 officers from the federal government and some high government officials of Sindh to look over things such as how long this project shall take,” he said.
The minister also pointed out that the KCR would not be the old circular railway that some might remember as it was going to be a far more sophisticated system with faster trains.
Hoping that all the 24 train stations around the KCR tracks would be revived, he said the Gilani Station was almost clean now.
Replying to a question about the Tezgam inferno in which over 70 passengers lost their lives in October last year, he said that after the report from the Punjab Forensic Laboratory investigating the incident it was evident that the fire was caused due to gas cylinder blasts and not because of any kind of short circuit.
Replying to another question about cockroaches and bugs in trains, he said that journalists should be asking these things after benefiting from the discounts in tickets that railways offers them.
Other than railways issues, Sheikh Rashid said that he is sure that Imran Khan’s government will complete five years in office. “I can say this because neither is Nawaz coming back, nor is Maryam going anywhere. What you hear are only rumours about the government’s being in trouble,” he said.
Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2020