After a number of failed test-runs in the past week, Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) has commenced operations on an additional 14-KM dilapidated track. The train service only revived partial operations from November 2020 after recovering some part of the planned 60-km track. Now 6 more stations are connected with that route along with 12 level crossings.
The train has been enabled to operate after 21 years. During these two decades, several residential and commercial dwellings had appeared on the parts of the abandoned track. In order to restore the KCR authorities now had run an anti-encroachment drive that has made many people homeless and jobless. Parts of the remaining track of the planned route are yet to be cleared. The citizens have faced a lot of criminal and traffic issues because of the abandoned rail track.
According to Pakistan Railways, there are three lines in KCR service; Main Line, Loop Line, Malir Line. Main line extends from Karachi City to Dabheji (outside Karachi), whereas Loop Line starts from Drigh Road and connects back to Main Line at Karachi City. Malir Line on the other hand involves only two station; Malir Colony and Malir Cantonment.
The revived operations are along the Main Line and extends to Gadap, Dhabeji, Kiamari, and Hub in Balochistan.
Karachi Circular Railway Route Map And Schedule
Currently, there will be only two trains running on this 14-km route; KCR-1 Up will depart from Orangi at 4:15PM en route to Karachi City station after touching Manghopir, S.I.T.E., Shah Abdul latif, Baldia, Lyari, and Wazir Mansion.
After arriving at Karachi station, it will follow the complete 60-KM Main Line towards Dhabeji outside Karachi. Consequently, a second KCR train, KCR-2 Down will travel the reverse distance from City towards Orangi Station, arriving at 10:10 AM.
The dotted line represents the newly active route from Orangi Town to Karachi City.
KCR coach can carry total 100 passengers with 64 seating and 36 by standing. The railway authority has also reduced the fair from 50 PKR to 30 PKR for the entire distance.
What Happened To The Track of Karachi Circular
Previously, the route was allegedly abandoned due to the losses faced by Railway and poor management. Later, the Sindh government’s anti-encroachment campaign and construction work on the tracks caused the delay in resuming operations. There are reportedly 7800 structures including 4700 houses illegally built on 67 acres of land out of 360 acres, which was required by Karachi Circular Railway project.
The service was dormant since 1999 and all attempts and plans to revitalize the service had constantly failed. In February 2020 Supreme Court had proposed to commence the work on KCR within six months. In September 2020 the Supreme Court had ordered the Sindh government to demolish all structures including people’s businesses and houses that were covering the part of the track and to rehabilitate the affectees.
This anti-encroachment drive by the authorities has ignited a lot of protests from the residents since 2013. According to the reports, before the few months of resuming the operations, the government was ordered to demolish the building of residents within 15 days, while agreeing to reimburse over the period of 1 year.
The government had suddenly decided to destroy the buildings when the number of residents in the area had increased this much. This made public and human rights activists skeptical that if this KCR project was necessary enough to take away home from so many poor people in surrounding areas.
Many outlets reported that around 40% of schools in the city were bulldozed to clear path for this train.
A similar situation was faced in Lahore during the construction of the Lahore Orange Line Metro Train; the reason why the construction had taken several years. While Lahore OLMT is being hailed as a mass transit project of the international standard it faced huge criticism for displacements it caused.
How Much Of The Route Is Still Damaged?
The project is being completed in phases. The first phase saw the re-opening of partial Main Line, second phase cleared some more of the track and another phase will see the renovation of most awaited Loop Line.
It is argued that once the Loop Line is fully functional, it will surely reduce the inbred traffic problem of Karachi. Reportedly, Loop Line still needs a lot of work on Orangi Town to Dirgh Road route. Pakistan is also a part of an economic project by ECO (Economic Cooperation Organization) named ITI Train (Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad). It is an international freight service between Pakistan and Turkey, via Iran.