KARACHI, April 28: The Pakistan Railways on Thursday launched an operation to remove encroachments along the tracks of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR). The part of the KCR, called a local train service, started in early March this year under the directives of the prime minister, would be extended to the loop of the existing circular railway tracks, officials said, and added that the removal of encroachments was a part of the plan to revive the KCR.

At many places in the city, the land along the KCR tracks was encroachment upon and RCC structures had been raised. Owners of the RCC structures had been offered regularization of the illegally occupied land against a payment of Rs3,000 per square yards as penalty. The railways had first served notices in this regard some three years back. Since then, it has been sending reminders to the encroachers with regular intervals.

“We have sent them yet another notice a week ago and the final notice a day earlier. However, none of them has turned up to get his structure regularized. The railways owns the 130-ft-wide land along each side of the KCR tracks and we are going to remove any structures or encroachment on the land,” Divisional Superintendent, Karachi, Junaid Qureshi told Dawn.

He said that the operation to remove encroachments would continue till the entire KCR track was cleared as the work was being carried out under the plan to revive the KCR service on the directives of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

About the offer to regularize illegal structures, Mr Qureshi said that the railway wanted to establish commercial outlets at many places along the KCR to generate funds for its revival.

Official sources said that 80-square-yard houses had been raised on the illegally occupied land along KCR tracks. They said that the railway would retain at least 70-ft-wide strip of land on each side of the tracks and would not compromise on it. However, the structures built 70 feet beyond the track but within the 130 feet area owned by the railway could be regularized by the illegal occupants on payment of the prescribed penalty amount.

The other encroachments, like huts, hotels, etc., would not be tolerated as the prized land had been encroached upon by the builders’ mafia which had constantly been making efforts to get the KCR project shelved once and for all so that they could grab the precious land and construct high-rises on it.

An official in the transport department said that 22 level-crossings out of the total 26 required improvement. “We have categorized them into two sets: ‘critical’ which require immediate improvement, and ‘essential’ which need to be upgraded at a later stage,” an official stated.

He said that flyovers or subways were urgently required to be built at 13 level-crossings.

He identified such level-crossings as those at Sehba Akhtar Road (Hasan Square), Baloch Hotel (Gharibabad), Mujahid Colony (Abbasi Shaheed Hospital), Orangi Railway Station (Bara Maidan), Manghopir (Nawab Steel), Manghopir Railway Station, SITE Railway Station, Ghani Chowrangi, SITE, National Motors (on Hub River Road), Shah Abdul Latif Railway Station, Gulbai Chowk, and Port Trust Station (West Wharf Road).