ISLAMABAD: Not satisfied with the pace of work on completion of the much-needed Karachi Circular Railway, the Supreme Court on Thursday issued a contempt notice to Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on perceived failure to approve design work for developing underpasses coming on the way of KCR track.

At the last hearing on Nov 10, a three-judge SC bench headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed had already issued contempt notices to Railways Secretary Habibur Rehman Gillani and Sindh Chief Secretary Syed Mumtaz Ali Shah after losing patience over the delay in completion of the 50km-long KCR.

The bench consisting of the chief justice, Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Justice Muneeb Akhtar had taken up a suo motu case relating to the colossal losses incurred by Pakistan Railways.

The bench had at last hearing also cautioned that things would not stop here, rather the court might call anybody, even Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Sindh chief minister, if needed.

CJP says project should have been completed within two months

After over two decades, the people of Karachi finally saw partial revival of KCR on Nov 16 when Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed inaugurated the first out of three phases of the project. In the first phase, KCR trains have to run on the 14km main line track from Karachi City Station to Orangi Station, whereas the second phase will cater to another 7km from Orangi Station to Gilani Station. The last phase will be a 9km stretch from Gilani Station to Drigh Colony.

On Thursday, the chief justice said that the KCR project should have been completed within two months, saying that only some underpasses and overhead bridges, in addition to some more work, had to be completed.

The contempt notice was issued when Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) Director General Maj Gen Kamal Azfar informed the court that the cause of delay in construction of different underpasses was a delay on the part of the provincial government in awarding the contract.

The chief justice, however, observed that the FWO was not a private organisation and, therefore, it should not be concerned more about making profits.

The court directed the chief minister to furnish reply to the contempt notice in two weeks. The court also issued a second contempt notice to the railways secretary, asking him to submit his response.

In February, the Supreme Court had proposed to commence work on the KCR project within six months.

Then the court was informed that a survey for construction of 11 underpasses in the way of KCR had been completed by the FWO, whereas that for the rest of 13 underpasses would be completed soon. Necessary planning had been done while designing was in progress. The contract for construction of these underpasses would be awarded soon after the FWO came up with a design plan, coupled with the estimated construction cost, the court was informed.

The Sindh government had earlier informed the court that it had taken a number of steps to remove encroachments on different sites, while those on both sides of the railway track would be removed soon.

The KCR revival project includes the transformation of the old KCR into a mass transit system. The total length of the railway line is expected to be 50km. Opened in 1964, the route of the old KCR started from Drigh Road and ended in downtown Karachi. The KCR ceased operations in 1999 after it suffered huge losses.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2020

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