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November 20, 2020

New ‘shorter version’ of KCR launched

National

November 20, 2020

KARACHI: A service which the incumbent Ministry of Pakistan Railways had suspended last year citing huge losses to the department was restored on Thursday under the name of Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) with much acclaim.

Back in 2018, President Dr Arif Alvi and Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed had inaugurated the local train service, Dhabeji Express, at Karachi’s City Station but it was scrapped within two months citing huge losses.

However, soon afterwards, the Supreme Court initiated contempt of court proceedings against Pakistan Railways Secretary Habibur Rehman Gillani, and Chief Secretary of Sindh Syed Mumtaz Ali Shah for delay in the completion and commencement of the KCR project, the federal government, apparently in a haste to satisfy the court, started a local train service from Karachi’s City Station to Pipri, which is 20 minute-drive from Dhabeji. It is pertinent to mention here that the KCR’s itinerary since its inception, has never included Pipri.

The day the apex court started contempt proceedings i.e. November 11, the Pakistan Railways announced to partially resume the circular railway from November 16, all the way from Pipri Station to Orangi Station covering about 60-kilometer route. Four trains in Up and Down directions were scheduled to commute the passengers between Pipri and Orangi stations with a uniform gap of three hours. However, when the trial train was run, the authorities learnt that the railway track from various points towards the Orangi station, did not even exist while stations, too, were in a dilapidated condition. Thus, having considered the reported issues with operations, the KCR was inaugurated from City Station to Pipri. From the City Station towards the Orangi Station, the distance is around 14 kilometers. After the City Station, there is Keamari Station, Karachi Port Trust Station, Wazir Mansion Station, Lyari Station, Baldia Station, Gulbai Station, Site Station, Shah Latif Station and then Orangi Station.

According to an official of Pakistan Railways, the ML-1 is already functional for upcountry trains, however, KCR’s track from City Station towards Orangi Station needs to be rediscovered and rebuilt at several points.

The fare for the circular railway was fixed at Rs30, with the working class being able to travel with a Rs750 monthly card. The 14-kilometer KCR’s track is being used for the operation of the service, while the Pakistan Railways has announced they will add further 14 kilometer of the local train’s track, in the next 15 days, in which 12 crossings will be installed. The service has been initiated after remaining nonfunctional for 25 years.

Addressing the inaugural ceremony, Rasheed said that the KCR will run from the Karachi City Station on the 46-km track, including the 14-km KCR track. He assured that after 155 days, another 14 kilometer track will be laid and additional 12 gates will be installed. As many as two train services per day, according to Rasheed, will run from the City Station and the number of trains will increase to eight by December 14. They also plan to ply 20 trains, gradually on the route on a regular basis.

A powerful land mafia, he said, has encroached the land belonging to Pakistan Railways in the city, while the railways ministry is not getting the political support needed to reclaim it. He pointed out that at the Gilani Station, the land mafia has encroached the KCR’s land. Only if Pakistan Railways sold one of its one encroached plots in Karachi, it could pay off its entire debt, he said. The federal government, he said, is cooperating with the Sindh government fully. The provincial government has released tenders to the Frontier Works Organization for the construction of overhead railway tracks for the KCR in the city. “The KCR trains will begin plying on longer routes with crossings and the overhead tracks,” he said pledging to completely modernize the circular railway within a year.

The minister gave credit of KCR’s revival to Prime Minister Imran Khan, Sindh government and the workers of Pakistan Railways. He said that he was friend and a member of PM Imran’s cabinet and implementing the Supreme Court’s orders with complete honestly.

When the KCR will run, he said, even the Sindh government can take its credit. On Friday (today), he said the service would run free of cost. As for the condition of stations, he said, they will be renovated in 15 days. Once the KCR will be completely revived, he said, they would privatize it.

Sharing the cost of KCR’s coaches, he said that the cost of one wagon was Rs9 million and up till now Pakistan Railways had spent Rs17 million on buildings of railway coaches. In every coach, more than 100 passengers can travel, out which 64 passengers can travel seat by seat, while there’s a capacity for 36 passengers to stand.

Regarding the Gilgit Baltistan elections, he said they are surprised that the opposition did not accept the results. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, he said, will form its government there with two-thirds majority. He said that now there will be polls in Kashmir and then in Senate. He said Prime Minister Khan wants to conduct the Senate elections with show of hands. Those who are talking against the Pakistan Army, he said, are actually serving Imran Khan.

Following the partial revival of the service of Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) on Thursday, Sindh Minister for Women Development Syeda Shehla Raza took to twitter and said that the PTI government had tried to fool the people of Karachi as the local train which earlier operated between Pipri Railway Station to Cantonment Railway Station had been given the name of KCR.

According to Shehla Raza, this commuter train service doesn’t cover even up to 90 per cent of the KCR stations. She asked as whether or not the judiciary would take cognisance of the matter to seek an explanation from Federal Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed. “Even the selectors didn’t expect show of so much stubbornness on the part of the selected rulers,” she said.