Reviving KCR

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Residents of Karachi have long been suffering from the dilapidated transport structure of the city. It is rather unfortunate that the biggest city in Pakistan and the third-largest in the world — housing almost 15 million people — is devoid of a safe and efficient mass transport system.

On the streets, people are seen cramping into ramshackle buses which, along with 5-stroke rickshaws, emit excessive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Routes at rush hours remain congested for hours on end. The record monsoon rainfalls that have lashed the city over the past few years have further uncovered the deep dysfunctional system and the cheap raw materials used to build roads. Karachi has one of the worst transport systems in the world due to lack of planning, negligence and corruption. But this was not always the case. Karachi used to be well-connected by the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), which was brought to a halt in the late 1990s due to corruption and mismanagement. The federal and the provincial governments have been working to revive the KCR by envisaging a 43km-long affordable mass transit system with environment-friendly electric trains. The government has now conditionally approved a financing structure worth Rs201 billion — of which Rs90 billion would be given in subsidies by the Centre. The dream is on road to become a reality. The KCR along with the Green and Orange Line metrobus transit will indeed provide much-needed relief to commuters and travelers. If successful, it will decrease the burden on the roads and provide a safe and affordable alternative to those that otherwise find is tedious to travel.

There are however growing concerns that the scheme carries with it high risk and might not be financially viable in the long run. Therefore, officials must be vigilant of any obstacles or loopholes and ameliorate them in a timely manner. There must also be a plan B in place in case things do not work out. Both governments must do everything in their power to make this a success as it will change the entire atmosphere of the city through better connectivity.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2022.

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