The federal and Sindh governments have agreed to start trial runs of local trains within 12 kilometres during the next two months and then plan how to synchronize it with the modern circular railways system in the next phase.
The decision was taken in a meeting held between Federal Planning Minister Asad Umar and Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Saturday to chalk out a strategy for launching the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) project.
The federal minister was assisted by Federal P&D Secretary Mathar Niaz, Railways Secretary Habibur Rehman, Additional P&D Secretary Rafiq Chandna, KCR Project Director Ameer Mohammad, Railways Planning DG Imran Mishal, and Karachi DC Arshad Salam Khatak.
The chief minister was assisted by Minister Transport Awais Qadir Shah, Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, Advocate General Sindh Salman Talibuddin, P&D Chairman M Wasem, Karachi Administrator Iftikhar Shahalwalni, PSCM Sajid Jamal Abro, Karachi Commissioner Sohail Rajput, Finance Secretary Hassan Naqvi, Transport Secretary Sharik and Additional CM Secretary Badaruddin Shaikh.
The KCR was commissioned in 1964 and remained in operation until 1984. It was abandoned in 1999, as it had lost its operational efficiency.
The relaunch of the project was agreed in a recent meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) in order to implement the directive of the Supreme Court.
During the meeting, Chief Minister Murad said that the Sindh government had approved the initial feasibility for the KCR revival in 2006. Then the project was to be undertaken through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which revised the feasibility.
Murad said that the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) revised the feasibility of $2.6 billion in 2012, adding that the JICA remained engaged in the project from 2006 to 2012 but the agreed financing arrangements could not materialise.
The matter was taken up with the then prime minister in December 2016, with a request for including the KCR in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework and the issuance of sovereign guarantee for its revitalisation.
According to the chief minister, the prime minister also requested to hand over the Karachi Urban Transport Corporation (KUTC) and the right of way to it to the Sindh government for construction and management of the KCR.
“The prime minister approved all of the requests, and for handover of ROW [right of way], a committee was formed,” the chief minister told the meeting. “I personally followed up at every stage and wrote a dozen letters to the federal government on the matter.”
The KCR loop has an overlapping section of 12 kilometres with the Pakistan Railways’ Mainline (ML)-1 project launched under the CPEC framework. He said that Ecnec approved the project in 2017, at a cost of Rs207.6 billion ($1.97 billion) through Chinese loan.
The total length of the KCR is 43.13, including 14.95 kilometres on the ground and 28.18 kilometres elevated. It will have 24 stations and is expected to ferry around 550,000 passengers every day. Murad said that the project was supposed to be completed within 36 months.
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