CIRCULAR RAILWAY IN KARACHI

May resolve chronic transport problem

By AMANULAH BASHAR
July 15 - 21, 2002

The railway stations and the tracks of Karachi Circular Railways (KCR), presenting a deserted look for over 8 years, are likely to experience the hustle bustle of the commuters once again as the system is being given a new life at the behest of the federal government.

The authorities responsible for running the KCR were compelled to wind up the circular railway operations in Karachi due to economic reasons. The trains both for up and down journey were running empty as the passengers were avoiding travelling by the circular railways due to various reasons. The city was in the grip of worst kind of law and order situation. Merciless killings all around the city had become a common phenomenon. The train facility was availed only during day hours while the trains were running empty during odd hours.

Apart from the law and order situation, the schedules for running the trains were also not matching to the fast living style of the metropolis. People had to kill their precious hours at the stations just to catch the train. The far off locations of the railway stations from the main roads were another drawback of the system. In the absence of any shuttle bus service, the commuters had to walk for long distances to reach their destinations or to the main roads for onward travelling through the buses. Although the system was called as circular railway, yet it was not designed to circulate around the city. The tracks were laid horizontally from Landhi to Wazir Mansion while the vast majority living in travels vertically from North Karachi to Merry Weather Tower. All these factors resulted in making the KCR a non-profitable organization. The losses were running in millions. All these factors had left any interest either for the commuters or the organizers. Hence, this very important means of travelling was closed down.

The Chairman Pakistan Railways Board while talking to PAGE sometimes back had said that Pakistan Railways has not interest in revival of the KCR and asked the provincial government to take its own decision whether to run it or not. However, the federal government, which believes in the significance of the modernized and effective communication system for the economic growth of the country, has issued directives for the revival of the KCR.

In order to take a lesson from the past, it is suggested that all those factors responsible for closure of the KCR be avoided in the system.

Transport is a chronic problem faced by this city of distances. The transport Mafia while taking advantage of the absence of any mass transit facility in town is making hay with its both hands. The transporters are not only extorting money but also unfortunately handling the commuters like a herd.

They treat the commuters as a ticket and not the fellow citizen, whether they are children, women or the senior citizens.

A genuinely efficient circular railway system extending travelling facility to the commuters from all corners of the town is the need of the hour. This mass transit facility is also vitally important to reduce the ever growing congestion and the smoke pollution all around the city.

PLAN

According to revival plan, the first phase of the project would take three years to complete at an estimated cost of Rs20 billion. Phase one of the project should be implemented immediately and ought to be completed in 3 years at a cost of Rs12 billion.

The consultants have recommended that the dual track for the KCR should take place along with the construction of the infrastructure in phase-1. The first phase will also include supply of locomotives, bogies and the development of the railway stations.

A bus shuttle service will also be linked with each KCR station. Initially, the KCR service will start from Drigh Colony to Karachi Cantt. Station via Nazimabad and Wazir Mansion in the first phase.

The second phase envisages extension of the circular railway to low income areas. It was suggested that the circular railway system should be connected to the Quaid-e-Azam International Airport, Orangi Town, New Karachi, Surjani Town, Baloch Colony, Landhi and Korangi.

Phase-2 of this project is to be completed at an estimated cost of Rs8 billion in which entire system would be modernized.

The fares being considered for the feasibility are Rs5 for 10 km, Rs10 for 10-20 km, and Rs15 for a journey between 20 to 30 km.

The federal government has also considered that an effective commuting system for the convenience of city commuters is of vital importance. It is suggested that in most of world metropolitan city arrangements and management of a commuter train system is responsibility of the metropolitan and provincial authority instead of running by the national railways.

The consultants said that locomotives and other equipment with the railways at present are not suitable for any urban mass transit programme, as the world over mostly diesel multiple units with attachments are used for running the urban transport.

The present government, it may be noted, taking special interest in developing a sound and effective communication infrastructure which includes construction of new roads, highways and complete overhauling of the railway system in Pakistan.