KARACHI: Following last week’s test runs, the City Railway Station to Orangi Station track of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) was made operational and accessible to the public on Wednesday.
The train, comprising six coaches, was being admired with awe by all the people on the platform at Orangi Station. The children there had not seen a train in their neighbourhood before the test runs. And now they were hearing that they can travel within the city and even further on this train.
“We never thought this station could be cleared for trains as there used to be such a big mess here what with all the encroachment and the weekly market that used to be held here. This is a great accomplishment. And then when the KCR train pulled up here earlier today, we thought we were dreaming,” said Hamid, who had brought on board his wife and their three little ones to travel to their grandmother’s house near Wazir Mansion.
“I was born in Gulshan 13-D. When I was young, we used to have the local train passing through here, and my friends and I used to catch it during Ramazan just to kill time before iftar. Then when I started working, I would travel to Saddar and Tower on the local. The fare at the time, if I remember correctly, was eight annas,” said Tariq, a senior citizen.
The rehabilitated track of 14 kilometres between Orangi and City Station entails six stations and 12 level crossings. Gazing out from the train’s big windows, one could also see the semi-demolished structures that were encroaching Railways’ land along with wild plantation. A lot has been cleared, a lot more needs to be cleared. At places, one also crossed overflowing sewers and stagnant water as the train moved past factories, warehouses, etc. The walls of some factories were so close that if one leaned out of the train window, one could touch them if one tried.
‘We never thought this station could be cleared for trains as there used to be such a big mess here’
Each KCR coach has a capacity for 100 passengers with seating for 64 as 36 can travel while standing. The fare has been set at Rs30 per trip regardless of the distance to be travelled.
According to Pakistan Railways, at 4.15pm, the train, KCR-1 Up, departing from Orangi, will travel 14km while making brief stops at Manghopir, SITE, Shah Abdul Latif, Baldia, Lyari, and Wazir Mansion en route to the City Station. From there, after a slightly longer stop, it will proceed even further, covering another 60km towards Dhabeji. Traversing the same distance a second KCR train, the KCR-2 Down, will arrive at the Orangi Station at 10.10am.
One also noticed raised eyebrows and surprise on the faces of people who were not used to seeing an entire train running on the tracks. Many people waiting behind the closed barriers on their motorbikes and inside their cars at the crossings also smiled and waved.
On the occasion of completion of another important phase in the revival of the KCR project, the divisional superintendent of Pakistan Railways Karachi, Mohammad Hanif Gul, said that the loop line restoration of KCR, to also happen soon, would help redress the traffic woes of the people of this city. He also visited the KCR infrastructure of the remaining 16km loop line from Orangi to Drigh Road Station with the project director KCR Ameer Mohammad Daudpota soon after the resumption of the Orangi-City track.
Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2021