KARACHI: Deciding to resolve hurdles in the revival of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), the federal railways ministry agreed on Monday to hand over the state-owned Karachi Urban Transport Company (KUTC) and Right of Way (ROW) to the Sindh government. This will allow the project to receive financial approval from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) in Beijing in April.
The decision to resolve all pending issues was taken during a meeting between Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and Federal Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed at the CM House on Monday. Stressing the importance of the project, Shah said that the KCR and complementary mass transit projects were "the ultimate solution" for Karachi's transport woes.
Briefing Rasheed about the KCR timeline, Shah said that he had requested then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif in December, 2016, to include the project under the CPEC framework, issue sovereign guarantee for its revitalisation and hand over KUTC and ROW to the Sindh government.
He stated that Sharif had approved his requests and formed a committee on the handover issue, after which the matter was delayed. Meanwhile, he added, the decision to revive KCR was also agreed upon in a JCC meeting on December 29, 2016, in Beijing.
According to Shah, the project was approved at the cost of Rs207.6 billion through a Chinese loan in 2017. In another JCC meeting in Islamabad on November 6, 2019, Chinese officials had asked the Pakistani government to submit the financing request to them.
"The KUTC, in which the federal government owns 60 per cent shares and the Sindh government owns 40 per cent shares, was not handed over to us so that a consultant could be appointed to carry the project forward," he told the railway minister.
At this, Rasheed declared that he would hand it over to the provincial government, constituting a committee to finalise the arrangements within a month.
Discussing encroachments along the KCR route, the chief minister said that out of 38 kilometres, 33km had been cleared while 5km were left. He and Rasheed constituted another committee, headed by Karachi commissioner Iftikhar Shalwani, to clear the route within a month.
Other pending matters that were discussed included the topographical survey and geotechnical investigation of the section of Pakistan Railways overlapping with KCR - from City Station to Drigh Road. This area would be designed once the surveys are completed, said Shah.
Meanwhile, said the CM, the framework agreement, concessional financing request and issuance of sovereign guarantee were all languishing in the Ministry of Planning and Development, Economic Affairs Division and Finance Division respectively. He added that the processes should be expedited. "We must make all arrangements by the end of March so that the financial releases for KCR can be negotiated in the forthcoming JCC meeting [in April]."
Rasheed assured him that his ministry would extend its utmost cooperation to initiate the KCR project as soon as possible. The meeting also agreed to resettle those affected by the development of the KCR in houses built on land owned by the railways, where possible.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2020.
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