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Karachi Circular Railway Will Transform The City Economically

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Raja Masroor Hassan writes about the significance of Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) project that has the potential to transform the metropolis economically and further strengthen Sino-Pak ties. 

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) constitutes a key platform for building a common destiny of Pak-China relations. It is envisaged to contribute to economic development, livelihood improvement and social stability in both countries.

The need of the hour is to effectively expedite the implementation activities so that they can be completed within the stipulated time frame, in consonance with the strategic priorities of both countries.

With the comprehensive transportation corridor and industrial cooperation between China and Pakistan as the core alignment, the project is based on major collaborative initiatives for infrastructure construction, industrial development and livelihood improvement in both countries.

The Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) is a project of national importance and significant component of Karachi Mass Transit System embedded in it. This project was approved to be included in CPEC in the 6th Joint Cooperation Committee Meeting held on 29th December, 2016 in Beijing, China on the directive of the then PM.

Subsequent to its inclusion, the project stands approved from the national fora for sharing with the Chinese counterparts National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and Ministry of Transport, People’s Republic of China.

The need for revival of Karachi Circular Railway is emphasised on the grounds that the provincial capital is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, the population of the city may touch 34.3m by 2030. Therefore, there are ample returns on investments made in the city.

The project is expected to serve the commuting needs of 515,000 passengers every day, and is expected to be completed in three years. The project will not only substantially reduce the travel time but will also curtail environmental pollution in the city.

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Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) remained an effective mass transportation system since it was commissioned in 1964 and remained useful till 1984. However, the operational efficiency kept deteriorating due to lack of investment which resulted in reduction of ridership and subsequent closure of KCR in December, 1999 as an effective means of transportation for the citizens of Karachi.

The KCR project was approved by ECNEC on 6th October, 2017 and feasibility study of the project has been shared with the Chinese government.

The Modified Framework Agreement in respect of KCR was shared with Ministry of Communication on 6th November, 2017 for further deliberations on the settlements of the formalities and financing agreements before execution of the projects.

The project was discussed in 7th JCC meeting and minutes of meeting clearly state that the KCR is “technically qualified and mature for implementation”. KCR is vital to the competitiveness of not just Karachi, but the entire country. It carries 65% weight for Ease of Doing Business Indicators of Pakistan; and the remaining 35% is carried by Lahore.

The project is also the solution to the many problems of Karachi, including traffic congestion, which has been a cause of health problems and environmental degradation. In addition, KCR will pave the way for economic transformation of the greater Karachi region.

The importance of the KCR is mutually recognised by both China and Pakistan, and efforts to materialise this project are being taken by the officials in both countries.

The project has been categorised technically qualified and mature for implementation in 7th JCC held on 21st November, 2017. And the Ministry of Communication had conveyed that the Summary for ECC as per the request of government of Sindh for seeking sovereign guarantee for KCR project may be moved by Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform on behalf of the government of Pakistan.

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In retrospect, it is stated that Pakistan’s Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform was advised by the then PM on 7th December, 2016 to include KCR in CPEC projects. As a result, the project was included in 6th Joint Cooperation Committee meeting held in China on 29th December, 2016. The project was placed before CDWP on 3rd May, 2017, and before ECNEC on 6th October, 2017 respectively. It was approved.

Subsequently, the Modified Framework Agreement for concessional financing was sent to Secretary EAD on 6th November, 2017 besides requesting Secretary EAD on 9th November, 2017, for seeking loan on concessional terms from relevant authorities in People Republic of China. Simultaneously, the Finance Division was also requested by GoS for issuance of sovereign guarantee for KCR financing.

KCR project was approved by the federal cabinet in November 2017. The approval clearly mentioned the inclusion of KCR in CPEC projects and “provision of Sovereign Guarantee for the KCR on the lines as was provided to Lahore Orange Line Metro Train Project”.

But it is unfortunate that Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) project could not take off as planned even after untiring efforts and continuous follow up by the government of Sindh. The people of Sindh hope that the KCR will commence as soon as possible with the support and assistance from Chinese government. This would strengthen bilateral economic relations and cementing friendship between Pakistan and China.

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