AS political and bureaucratic stakeholders drag their feet over reviving the Karachi Circular Railway, residents of the city must make do with limited options for public transport that is operated by individuals, private entities or mafias. Though the ambitious revival of the KCR had been in the works for a long while, the prime minister’s invitation to the Sindh government to bury the hatchet and work together on this project had raised hopes. However, the slow pace of work continues to be cause for concern. On the one hand, the federal government appears intent on bringing the dormant project to life by mid-2023, as indicated by reports of the meetings chaired by Federal Planning Minister Asad Umar, but the Sindh government appears to be delaying matters on account of bureaucratic hurdles. Apparently, the Frontier Works Organisation has to begin construction on the KCR route in two phases for which the Sindh government must pay the agency Rs6bn as its share. Regrettably, no contract or work order seems to have materialised so far in this regard.

Reports point out that the biggest obstacle include the existing infrastructure of the provincial and federal utility companies. These companies have reportedly failed to respond to the inquiries of the railways department about the details of their assets along the KCR route. Maybe the planning authorities can step in to liaise with the utility companies. Additionally, there has been scepticism over the feasibility of the project itself — within the provincial government’s ranks. However, whatever the reason for this delay, the Sindh government should not give in to doubts now. Political consensus on this project — or any other project for that matter — has been elusive. Now that it has been achieved, both the centre and the Sindh government should do their utmost to make the KCR dream a reality. Only then will we see a visible improvement in the lives of those millions of commuters who reside in this sprawling city.

Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2021

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