A master plan for the revival of the Karachi Circular Railway has
been prepared. The plan envisages not only the strengthening of the
existing KCR infrastructure but also its extension to cover those areas
which are currently not taken care of by the KCR.
Engineering Consultants International (ECIL) were appointed as consultants
by the Government of Sindh last year for the rehabilitation and
extension of the KCR. Over the past two months they have carried
out extensive surveys regarding Karachi's growth patterns, emerging
land use and commuter requirements. They have related these to the
existing railway corridor. As a result, they have come up with a
provisional schematic master plan.
The master plan is to be implemented in three phases. Phase-1 consists
of the rehabilitation of the KCR which includes the doubling of
tracks between Cantt Station and Landhi so that the KCR can have its
own tracks and as such be completely independent of Pakistan Railways.
This phase also envisages the shifting of railway stations to under
flyovers and bridges at the intersections of major roads with the circular
This will facilitate interchange of transport modes and will firmly
link the railway system with the road network. In addition, Phase-1
also includes the plying of commuter buses along the Shahrah-i-
Sher Shah from Nagan Chowrangi to the Nazimabad Station; from Orangi
to the Orangi Town Station; and from Cantt Station and Jinnah Bridge
to Saddar. It is envisaged that trains will ply every fifteen minutes.
The approximate cost of Phase-1, inclusive of completely new rolling
stock (appropriate for intra-city movement) is estimated between
Rs10 and 15 billion. Phase-1 will considerably reduce the use of roads
by commuters, especially on the main corridors within the circle of
the KCR - a welcome change.
Phase-2 of the master plan envisages the building of a loop from
the Nazimabad Station through the Nazimabad Town, New Karachi Town
and Gulshan-i-Iqbal Town to Depot Hill near the Drive-in Cinema.
It also includes the building of a spine to Orangi Town and the
completion of a loop from Baloch Colony to Korangi and Landhi.
A connection with the Quaid-i-Azam International Airport has also
been planned. The approximate cost of Phase-2, inclusive of rolling
stock, is also estimated at between Rs 10 and 15 billion. With
the completion of Phase-2 almost all of Karachi will be serviced
by the railway.
This will bring about a major improvement, not only in commuting
but also in the physical environment. Use of buses will only be necessary
for short distances, if at all, since the railway will be available
at a distance of about two kilometres to the vast majority of Karachicites.
Phase-3 of the master plan envisages a loop through Keamari Town
and an extension of the Korangi line into Defence Society and its
link up with the Shireen Jinnah Colony and the beach.
Phase-1 will rehabilitate and build approximately 48 kilometres of
the KCR whereas Phase-2 will add 121 kilometres to the network. The
two phases (169 kilometres) are estimated to cost between Rs 20 and
30 billion as compared to the KMTP proposal for Corridor One of Rs 40
billion for the construction of 14 kilometres from Tower to Karimabad.
In addition, the building of this network will have no adverse environmental
effects since it uses the existing rail corridor and the extensions
are on very wide road alignments. The proposed KCR network will
link almost all of Karachi's low, lower middle and upper middle income
areas with the major work places.
Another important feature of the proposal is that ultimately the
railway network will pass through all the 18 towns of Karachi District.
Engineer Zaheer Mirza, head of ECIL, suggests that one station (perhaps
the busiest one) in every town should be developed as an "Awami Markaz".
Maybe the offices of the Town government could also be located in it.
Space for building stations with such facilities have been provisionally
identified. The building of such stations will give each town a sense
of identity and pride and will also give the town governments a pleasant
working environment. Such stations can be self-financed through
the sale of commercial areas linked to them.
The plan sounds good. However, there are problems that need to be
sorted out. Who is going to take over the circular railway land
and stations and decide on institutional and other related matters?
So far, no one.
The Government of Sindh had a couple of years back passed an ordinance
creating the Karachi Metropolitan Transport Authority (KMTA). The
Ordinance has however lapsed. It is necessary to revive it and create
an effective KMTA that can manage and steer the KCR planning and
implementation. Also, the federal government must gift the required
railway line to the City Government so that the implementation of the
Master Plan can become relatively affordable.
The process for the creation of an effective KMTA and the transfer
of railway land and assets to the City Government should begin immediately
as it takes a long time to fulfil bureaucratic requirements associated
with these processes. These should not be the reason for delays to
the implementation of the Master Plan recommendations.
There is a tendency in Pakistan today to hand over the building
of infrastructure on a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) basis. If this
is done, there are two problems. First, given the law and order situation
in Pakistan in general and Karachi in particular, will anyone bid?
The other issue is that if the KCR is developed on a BOT basis then
fares may be too high for the lower income groups to afford.
This is very much the case in Manila and Bangkok.
The other option is that the government develops the necessary
infrastructure (through loans if it does not have the resources)
and hands over the operation and maintenance of the system to a
In this case it is estimated that fares can be kept within Rs10 per
trip which would include the profit of the operating company and
revenues for repayment to the government. However, these figures
still need to be worked out properly.
The implementation of the ECIL master plan will change the lives
of the vast majority of Karachiites and will improve the physical