After remaining nonfunctional for over 25 years with a city of sorts built upon its sunken tracks, the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) was partially restored on Thursday.
An inaugural function was held on the occasion which was attended by Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid.
Currently, the KCR project comprises of a 44km long track, with the inclusion of a 30km loop with 20 stations, and a 14km main line with five stations.
Today's inauguration focused on the first of the three phases of KCR's revival. In this phase, trains will run along the 14km track from Karachi City Station to Orangi Station and back.
The second phase will cater to the seven kilometre track running from Orangi Station to Gilani Station, while the third comprises the nine kilometre track from Gilani Station to Drigh Colony.
Addressing today's inaugural ceremony, the railways minister said that the circular railway would run from Karachi City Station on the 46km track starting today, that included the 14km KCR track.
After 15 days, another 14km track will be added and an additional 12 gates will be installed, whereas construction of track crossings will also be completed, Rashid maintained.
The federal minister added that two trains per day will run the inaugurated route initially. The number of trains will increase to eight on Dec 14, and finally and after that 20 trains will ply the route on a regular basis.
The fare for the circular railway has been fixed at Rs30, with the working class being able to travel with a Rs750 monthly card.
Further addressing the ceremony, Rashid said that "a powerful land mafia had usurped the land belonging to the KCR", and that the railways ministry was not getting the political support needed to reclaim the land. He added that the ministry was cooperating with the Sindh government fully, and that the provincial government has released the tenders for the overhead track to the FWO.
The KCR trains will begin plying longer routes as the crossings and the overhead tracks will continue to be constructed, the minister added. The circular railway will be completely modernised with a year.
Rashid credited the KCR's revival to the efforts of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Sindh government and the workers of the Pakistan Railways. He added that "I am a friend and a member of PM Imran's cabinet... [I am] implementing the Supreme Court's orders with complete honestly, he added.
The KCR first began its operations in the year 1969, under the administration of Pakistan Railways. Its trains served the Karachi metropolitan area as an affordable means of intra-city transport for thirty years, until the service was eventually discontinued in 1999.
Considering the mega-city’s growing infrastructural and transportation needs, the revival of the circular railway was first brought up in 2005, and then later in 2009. Both times however, the project remained limited to lip-service until 2017, when the federal government offered its first restoration package for the rail network.
The KCR’s revival now presented a set of unique challenges - the foremost being the 67 acres, out of the required 360, which had been subject to extensive encroachment over the years.
Already delayed by mismanagement on various levels, the clearing of the path for the mass transit system’s construction began in May 2019, as part of the city’s anti-encroachment drive.
A year and a half later, with the project framework finalised, the Carriage Factory Islamabad has been told to expedite work on vehicles issued for upgrading the KCR.