KARACHI: More than a month after the ground-breaking of the Karachi Circular Railways by Prime Minister Imran Khan amid much media fanfare, the performance of the so far available and operational service came under serious criticism from lawmakers on Wednesday who observed that the Pakistan Railways should undergo massive overhauling to come on a par with the required standards which were currently on the decline.
The observation came from members of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Railways on the second leg of its three-day visit of travel and inspection of the KCR route.
“Unfortunately, the situation is not very good or promising,” said NA standing committee chairman Muhammad Moeen Wattoo while taking to Dawn after the visit.
“We visited from Orangi Town to City Station [one of the KCR routes] on tracks and it was not a very good experience. Even I shared a joke with the Pakistan Railways officials that a man on foot can complete the distance faster than this train service. It was dead slow. How can you expect it to become a popular service with this speed and pace? It doesn’t serve the purpose at all,” he said.
$6.8bn ML-1 project would be completed in eight and half years
Similarly, he said overhead bridges and underpasses were badly needed to scale up the KCR service otherwise it would fail to meet the desired results. He referred to several level-crossings in the main urban centre, which were needed to be upgraded and said that the legislators from the lower house of the parliament had made their observations part of the record.
Mr Wattoo also questioned the utility and effectiveness of the ML-1 project which was much publicised and cheered by the Pakistan Railways authorities, but in reality it had not yet taken off.
After the briefing from the Pakistan Railways, the NA body was convinced that the project carried several advantages for the country and could benefit the country’s transport economy in a long term, but there were several formalities which had not been met yet.
“We are not satisfied with the progress [on ML-1],” he said. “We keep hearing about its benefits and advantages but no one tells that where the project actually is on the ground? There are several formalities, documentary procedures and contractual requirements which are still pending. We have not yet completed several jobs and formalities with China which we have to do before the tender. Then it would go into tender and other things. So we are far away. This performance is so unsatisfactory.”
Meanwhile, a Pakistan Railways official said that the NA committee briefed that ML-1 project would not only improve the performance of the Pakistan Railways, but would also have a positive impact on the national economy.
“The officials briefed the standing committee on the ML-1 project and the scrap auction of Pakistan Railways Karachi Division during the last five years. The committee was informed that ML-1 project would be completed in three phases and in 8.5 years with a total estimated cost of US $6.6806 billion,” he said.
While briefing the NA committee on the revenue generated from the auction of coaches in Karachi Division during the last five years, the official said, it was shared with the legislators that the auction was stopped in 2016-17 due to low prices.
Later, he said, after its restoration the revenue from auction stood at Rs343 million in 2017-18, Rs71.43 million in 2018-19, Rs11.86 million in 2019-20 and Rs198.613 million in 2020-21.
PR CEO Nisar Ahmad Memon, chief engineer Irfan ul Haq, divisional superintendent of Karachi Hanif Gul, project director of KCR Amir Muhammad and other senior officials.
The NA committee members included Sheikh Rashid Shafiq, Aftab Jehangir, Nusrat Wahid, Engineer Sabir Hussain Qaim Khani, Muhammad Hamid Hameed and Muhammad Khan.
Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2021