KCR project was a focal point of attention for the Governor and the Chief Minister of Sindh


Apr 19 - 25, 2004





The Federal Minister for Railways on 4th March said that work for revival and revamp of the whole system of Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) is expected to start by June at a cost of Rs 5 billion. He was speaking as the chief guest at a cash award distribution ceremony for police officers and constables who busted a gang of dacoits which had looted passengers of the Lahore-bound Tezgam on 8th May 2003 near Sukkur. On the occasion, the Minister also formally inaugurated the air-conditioned computerized reservation office at the Cantonment Station, Karachi. He added that in the first phase work would be done on system improvement and expansion of KCR would be carried out at later stage as removal of encroachment surfaced on the sides of KCR track would take time. He stated that government is striving hard for providing better transport facilities to masses and referred to opening of reservation office, revival of KCR and mass transit system for Karachi as a few of those projects which the present government has initiated for providing comfortable and speedy means of transport to masses. At this occasion, the IGP, Sindh said that Karachi was an international city which had given so much to the people of Pakistan and that they would work hard for giving it peace and tranquility.

The Federal Minister at this occasion also pointed out that the KCR project was a focal point of attention for the Governor and the Chief Minister of Sindh and that CDGK was also seized with the efforts. It was probably in July last year that in principle decision to revive the operations of the KCR was made in a meeting presided over by the Sindh Governor, and attended by the Sindh Chief Minister, the Railways Minister, some of the Provincial Ministers, the Chief Secretary, the Chairman Pakistan Railways, the City Nazim and other Officials. The Railways Minister had informed the meeting that his department would extend all possible cooperation in reviving KCR. The Governor had said that the city was in need of an effective and well-meaning transportation system and that KCR should be in place on priority basis. The Governor had formed a committee, headed by the Sindh Chief Secretary with members including the City Nazim, the General Manager of Railways and some of the concerned officials.

The announcement by the Federal Minister about the forthcoming revival of KCR is a welcome development. It appears the special committee has been doing good work towards revival of the KCR project. KCR has the potential to reduce the travel time and provide the cheapest, comfortable and environment-friendly mode of transport to the Karachiites who look forward to the day when the KCR trains would actually start operating. With a view to assist the committee on achieving this objective, the following suggestions are offered for consideration.

Formal organisation structure is imperative for successfully implementing the KCR revival/revamp project and its commercial operations. The Federal Government, the Pakistan Railways, the Sindh Government and the CDGK are urged to incorporate a joint venture company known as KCR Limited to undertake all this work. The major stakeholders can devise the policy guidelines for the operation of the joint venture. The Board of Directors of the company might be from all the stakeholders including some prominent Karachiites. Actual operations of the company might be administered by the professional managers comprising largely the senior officers/experts from the major stakeholders. The joint venture company is also expected to provide the focal point for resolving any issues hindering progress in the revival of KCR.

The KCR revival/revamp project is said to cost Rs 5 billion to the government. It is not yet clear how much money will be flowing in for different elements of the project and in what timeframe. It is considered that the proposed joint venture company might be suitably capitalized by the stakeholders. Looking at the size of the KCR project and its operations, Rs 1.00 billion initial paid up capital appears justified. It might be realized that the setting up of the company and its start of operations on proper lines would also take sometime. Therefore, the stakeholders might consider its early incorporation, financing and staffing. A number of senior technical people might have to be taken on deputation from Pakistan Railways. In due course, the joint venture company could institute its own programmes for developing expertise in various disciplines.



Implementation of the KCR project into two phases instead of one big integrated project is a better approach. It might allow KCR trains to start running within a short period. This would test the system on the one hand and on the other keep the encroachers away from KCR properties. The first phase may comprise more or less the KCR system as it was operated by the Pakistan Railways before it was closed down a few years ago. Other phases might include doubling the tracks, extension of tracks to other destinations and improving the quality of passenger bogies as well as other equipment. After the last phase is implemented, one should not be surprised if the KCR trains more or less match the air-conditioned light rail transport operated in the large cities of the developed countries.

Realization of Phase One i.e. starting of regular passenger trains on the entire KCR system as in the past might be made easier through coordinated approach among the main stakeholders namely, the Railway Ministry, the Sindh Government and the CDGK. Main action areas include removal of encroachment, removal of garbage on the tracks and in the surrounding areas, technical revamp of the railway system including telecommunication, provision of sufficient number of coaches and engines, construction/repair of railway stations, platforms and the boundary walls, construction/repair of level-crossings and the over-head bridges, manning of all level-crossings, determination of schedule of fares for journey between different stations, furnishing of the railway stations with requisite furniture or other fixtures, manning of the railway stations, etc. Due to increase in population and the number of vehicles plying on the roads, it is expected that a number of new flyovers over level-crossing or bridges at appropriate places for the pedestrians shall have to be constructed even for the first phase of the project. With the proper scheduling of the trains and checks on ticket-less passengers, KCR is expected to generate sufficient cash to meet all expenses from the very first year. If the train service is regular and there are more frequent trains during rush hours, traveling public are expected to patronize the KCR trains in a big way.

We trust that the special committee has done enough of planning and homework for initiating work on the KCR project effective June 2004 which is fast approaching. In order to keep the whole process on track the major stakeholders particularly the Railway Ministry might consider announcing a date for the start of the commercial operations of KCR trains after proper trial operations. Financial and other incentives might also be announced for early completion. This might keep all the teams working on different elements of the project on their toes for meeting the target date. They should be rewarded for bringing the project on stream within the budgeted time and cost.

Sale of KCR land may not be an option at all for raising resources for implementing the KCR project. To overcome temporary funding shortages, the stakeholders might arrange short-term bridge finance from local banks. BOT financing, in fashion these days for various municipal infrastructure projects, might not be considered. BOT financing is costly, time-consuming and difficult to negotiate and therefore might not be considered in phase one of the KCR project. The President and the Prime Minister are understood to have soft corner for Karachi including the KCR project. They might be approached for funding or other assistance once implementation of phase one is under way and the actual work is there for every body to see.

It is felt that in the present day Karachi, the KCR trains and the private mini-buses/buses/vans would be supplementing each other. There are more than enough of travelers for every mode of transport. As the city has grown much away from the KCR facilities, the buses could start feeding the KCR trains by transporting passengers to the KCR stations. There could be shuttle services from each railway station for different destinations located in areas that are farther away than easy walking distance for the travelers.

The KCR project is a sort of test case for successfully implementing mega projects in Karachi through close cooperation among the federal, the provincial and the city government. As the total cost of phase one of the overall KCR project would be modest, there are fair chances of the stakeholders agreeing on paid up capital contribution and on other issues in the spirit of give and take and thus successfully implementing the phase one. Once commercial operations start and results are there for everybody to see, it would be easier to mobilize grants, raise loans or increase the paid up capital of the joint venture company for taking up next phase for implementation. The KCR Joint Venture Company, through tactful handling of the issues, can make the big difference in realizing the KCR project. The federal and the provincial government and the CDGK are urged to support the KCR joint venture company for providing an easier, cheaper, safer and environment-friendly mode of transport to the people of Karachi.