After a two-decade intermission, the Sindh government has reinstituted the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) project. On 19 November 2020, Minster of Railways, Sheikh Rashid launched the project by travelling from Orangi Station to Pipri Yard. However, according to media reports the project is again on the verge of failure.
KCR: a story of unsuccess
Since 2001, several attempts were made to revive KCR but they have been unsuccessful. The latest attempt is also heading towards failure as KCR continues to face low demand. The financial deficits may force KCR to once again, begin shutting down. In an attempt to sustain the project, Pakistan Railway has even reduced one train and restricted two operations.
With its launch in 1962, during President Ayub Khan’s tenure, KCR aimed to facilitate the large population of Karachi with quick and cost-effective transport within the city. The initial rail tracks began from Karachi City Station and ended at Drigh Road Station.
Due to its vast carrying capacity of 6 million passengers, Pakistan Railways was able to make a significant profit in its first year of inception. However, over the years, the popularity of KCR deteriorated, where lack of planning was the main contributing factor.
The project was unable to keep up with the rising demands of the growing population of Karachi and failed to expand. Simultaneously, minibuses were granted permits by the Sindh government and people opted for those instead.
Apart from this, people found it difficult to travel to railway stations as they were in far-off areas and feeder buses were not available. Hence, the lack of demand shut down the project in 1999.
Pakistan Railways fails to address main problems with KCR
Currently, it seems as if Pakistan Railways has once again failed to address the main problem areas. In order for train projects to be successful, elements like feeder bus service, standard gauge and light rail are necessary, but KCR continues to run on a broad gauge and heavy engine. Apart from this, no feeder bus service has been provided for the convenience of travellers.
Also, the operating cost of the project is very high due to the current prices of fuel and electricity, both of which are sky-rocketing all over the world. Needless to say, the total budget allocation of Rs. 357 billion has not been utilized efficiently.
In November 2020, the Supreme Court mandated the urgent revival of KCR; hence Pakistan Railways restored KCR without efficient and sustainable planning. According to an anonymous source from Sindh Transport Department, the partial revival of KCR was done only to avoid court proceedings.
Karachi Circular Railways may shut down once again.