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June 8, 2019

KCR track ‘needs to be rediscovered and rebuilt in several areas’


June 8, 2019

The Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), if revived, will chug through and around the city’s narrow streets, and elevated and at grate [ground] routes, according to a new master plan of the local train prepared by the Sindh government.

The Supreme Court in its May 8, 2019, clear-cut order directed the Pakistan Railways to end encroachments on the KCR’s right of way and hand the track over to the Sindh government, which should make it functional in one month. Even if all goes well, the order cannot be complied with in its true spirit. An official of the Sindh Mass Transit Authority (SMTA) shared project’s preliminary design with The News and said that currently the track for the local train doesn’t even exist on ground. “Most of the track is buried under the road, and at some places sewage lines have taken over their routes,” the official said.

According to SMTA MD Iqtedar Ahmed, 70 percent of the newly designed KCR track is elevated. The entire track, he said, will be approximately 43 kilometres. When asked about the design’s details and consultancy firms of the project, he said all the detail designs were all in Islamabad and he couldn’t share anything. However, sources within the department shared that the National Engineering Services Pakistan (NESPAK) is the lead and technical consultant of the project while AKHUND Forbes is the legal consultant. ProMag is also the technical consultant with expertise in real estate and then China Railway Engineering Corporation is a technical sub consultant and Hang Law associates is the project’s legal sub consultant. The KMPG is the financial consultant. The project is 12.63 kilometres at grade, and 30.75 kilometres elevated with 24 railway stations out of which 14 will be elevated. The average distance between each station will be 1.8 kilometres. In order to explain the route of the KCR, the official of the department started from the Drigh Road railway station. The new KCR’s alignment will go elevated from Drigh Road towards COD crossing the Natha Khan Flyover. The existing track at this point was at grate and it is from inside the Jauhar Nullah underneath the Natha Khan flyover. “We have an existing Jauhar Nullah station there,” said the official. “The station there is full of sewage water and wild bushes. There’s just a board of station left in the vicinity.”

After the Natha Khan Flyover, the KCR’s track will be at grade inside the COD, where the official pointed out that they had plenty of space. “There’s a proposed depot of the KCR inside COD, for which the Sindh government was supposed to hold meetings with the army officials,” the official explained and added that no such meeting had taken place as yet.

After the COD, the KCR track will again go elevated inside Gulistan-e-Jauhar towards Rabia City. The Jauhar Station will also be elevated. After that, it will go towards Aladin where it will have another elevated station from where it will go towards Nipa where it will be at grade beneath the Nipa flyover on Rashid Minhas Road. “There will be a station at grate at this point too,” the official said and added that in front of Sir Syed University the local train’s track will be at grate with probably a priority signal or an underpass for the mixed traffic – that is yet to be decided. After that it will again go elevated inside Gulshan-e-Iqbal until Gilani station, where they have planned to construct the station at grate.

“Along the Gilani station we’ve land of two-to-three acres heavily encroached,” the official said and explained that land was basically for Transit Orient Development (TOD). In order to run the KCR, the government needs to make it revenue- oriented and that could only be possible through branding.

In TODs, at the stations, small coffee shops, book shops or maybe clothing outlets would open from which the government could earn heavy revenues. After the Gilani Station, the KCR will go elevated and before the Lyari Expressway it will be at grade as there’s already a space left there for the KCR’s track. Then at Gharibabad and Yasinabad stations, it will also be at grate. However, going towards Liaquatabad it will be elevated and will go down at Liaquatabad station, which will be at grate right under the Liaquatabad flyover at Sharae Pakistan. From this point it will again go elevated inside the FC Area, Mujahid Colony, Nazimabad and Paposh Nagar. Here in Nazimabad, earlier the KCR used to go at grate underneath the Board Office Flyover – which has been knocked down to give Green Line Bus Rapid Transit right of way – will now have an elevated structure.

From Nazimabad it will remain elevated in Orangi where it will meet the Oraganabad station from where it will go elevated towards the Manghopir area before stopping at an elevated HBL station. The HBL flyover in the vicinity, according to the map, will be demolished. Crossing the Manghopir station and then the SITE Station it will reach Shah Abdul Latif station - all elevated. After this it will turn elevated towards the Baldia station and it will enter Lyari where it will also be elevated at the Lyari station after which at the Wazir Mansion station it will come down. At this point, the official explained that there’s a massive bottleneck.

“We need at least 50 acres of land, which is almost all encroached, to construct a depot,” the official explained and added that the population residing in the vicinity was hostile, who had constructed four-to-five-storey residential units, which were not that easy to demolish. “The reason why another depot has been proposed in COD is because at Wazir Mansion it will be difficult to vacate the land,” the official said.

After the Wazir Mansion, the KCR will remain at grate for a certain distance and then it will again go elevated and before the Jinnah Bridge it will again be at grate. Right after the Jinnah Bridge, the official explained, there is another bottleneck as the freight train service runs from the Karachi Port Trust at that point. At Tower, it will have an at grate station after which it will go elevated towards the Karachi City Station, where it will remain elevated until DCOS which is behind Pearl Continental hotel. From the City Station towards Drigh Road runs the Pakistan Railways’ Main Line (ML) 1, on which the KCR couldn’t run. For this purpose, especially at the City Station and the Cantt Station, the official explained that they have proposed an elevated track for the KCR. However, SMTA MD Iqtedar Ahmed said that it was yet to be decided if they would go elevated or at grate.

“The Sindh government and the Pakistan Railways will decide that,” he said. After the DCOS towards the Cantt Station, the KCR will again go elevated and at Clifton Bridge there it will go further high as there will be a third tier of the bridge for the KCR.

The official explained that they cannot dismantle the Clifton Bridge. After that at Carry Road Bridge it will also be elevated. Then at the Cantt Station and the Naval Station, it will move elevated along the ML-1’s alignment, according to the map shared by the official. However, it will be at grate at the Chenesar Station and will remain at grate at the Shaheed-e-Millat and Karsaz Station.

At the Shaheed Millat station it will be under the Baloch Colony Flyover. It will also cross the Pakistan Air Force flyover on Sharae Faisal at grate, after which it will again go elevated towards the Drigh Road crossing and the Natha Khan Flyover.

“This way it will complete its circular track,” the official said. As for Malir, joining the KCR’s loop, the official explained, it was part of the phase two extension, which was yet to be worked on.

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