KARACHI: The Sindh and federal governments on Saturday agreed to start trial runs of local trains within 12 kilometres during the next two months and then plan how to sync it with the modern circular railway system in the next phase.
This decision was taken here in a meeting between Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar.
Relevant officials from the federal and Sindh governments participated in the meeting.
Asad Umar, CM Shah discuss plan to revive circular railway in Karachi
The meeting was held to chalk out a strategy in respect of launching the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) project as was decided in the meeting of the Council of Common Interests and to implement the Supreme Court’s directives to start the projects in Karachi.
The chief minister said that the KCR was commissioned in 1964 and remained effective till 1984. It was closed in 1999 as it lost its operational efficiency.
Efforts to revive KCR began in 2006
He added that the provincial government approved initial feasibility/PC-I for its revival in 2006 to be undertaken through the Japan International Cooperation Agency and revised feasibility and PC-1 was prepared by JICA, which was approved by Ecnec in 2012 for $2.6 billion.
He told the meeting that JICA remained engaged on the project from 2006 to 2012, but unfortunately, the earlier agreed financing arrangement could not materialise.
Mr Shah said that given the stalemate on JICA financing, he took up the matter with the then prime minister on Dec 3, 2016 and requested him for inclusion of the KCR under the framework of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), issuance of a sovereign guarantee for the KCR revitalization, handing over of the Karachi Urban Transport Corporation (KUTC) to the Sindh government for construction and management of the KCR, handing over the right of way (ROW) to KUTC-Sindh government.
He added that the prime minister had approved all his requests and for handing over ROW a committee was formed to seek options. “The KCR loop has an overlapping section of 12 kilometres with Pakistan Railways project ML-1 launched under CPEC framework,” he added.
Mr Shah said that he followed up the matter with the federal government throughout 2017 and 2018.
“I personally followed up at every stage and [have] written a dozen letters to the federal government on the matter,” he said and added Ecnec approved the project on Oct 6, 2017 for Rs207.6bn ($1.97bn) through a Chinese loan and the administrative approval of the project was issued by Sindh Transport and Mass Transit Dept on Nov 8, 2017.
The chief minister said the project was supposed to be completed within 36 months.
It may be noted that the length of the KCR project was 43.13km, including 14.95km on ground and 28.18km elevated. It would have 24 stations and its per-day ridership would be around 550,000.
Mr Shah said that the KCR project was agreed in CPEC-related JCC meeting on Dec 29, 2016. “On Nov 22, 2017 the JCC confirmed that the KCR project is technically qualified and mature for implementation,” he said.
He added that on Dec 20, 2018 the importance of KCR was recognised and on Nov 5, 2019 it was decided that Pakistan would submit a financing request to the Chinese government. “After this no further progress could be attained,” he said.
Federal Minister Umar said that the federal government was serious to start the KCR project at the earliest. The federal minister and the chief minister also discussed how to start local trains within the next few months and whether the local train system would sync with the modern railway system of KCR.
The meeting decided to start local trains within a span of 12km from City Station to SITE as a trial run within the next two months.
It was also decided that a highly professional consultant would be hired to study how to sync the local train system with the modern KCR.
The railways secretary gave a detailed briefing about the project of KCR and local train system and discussed various options to start the project. He disclosed a three-phased plan under which construction of single-line track, rolling of stock, deputation of human resource and operation were to be taken in the first phase.
In the second phase, dualisation of track, signalling, fencing and flyovers/underpasses would be constructed.
In the third phase, the railways secretary said, modern urban rail-based mass-transit, transaction advisory services for public-private partnership mode, financial model and government model and cross subsidy model such as land commercialisation would be undertaken.
Sindh P&D chairman Muhammad Waseem claimed all encroachments had been removed. He said that provincial government would construct flyover/underpasses where necessary along with construction of fencing along the route.
He said that the provincial government would lay a sewerage system between Urdu College and Depot Hill and make arrangements for proper disposal of industrial effluent from the SITE area.
The chief minister said that the federal government had to decide whether the KCR would remain in the CPEC framework or not.
“If the decision in the CPEC framework is in affirmative then necessary measures should be taken to acquire the loan for the project and if the decision comes out in the negative then other ways and means may be explored to start the project because the KCR is the only solution of the transport problem,” he concluded.
Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2020