Irshad Salim — Pakistan’s Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) has approved a budget of over US$2.95 billion for nine major development projects in the country including the long-awaited Karachi Circular Railway.
At the meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the council agreed to the revival of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), at a cost of over US$1.97 billion. The project was initially started in 1962 which worked successfully until 1984, however it was closed down in 1999.
By far the largest of the projects to gain budget approval, the Karachi KCR project is now an important element of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – the initiative has been agreed between the two countries and intended to rapidly modernize the megacity’s infrastructure.
Karachi- the capital of Sindh province located on the shorelines of the Arabian Sea, is Pakistan’s economic capital and its largest city and expected to host many foreign direct investments a few hundred miles east of the Gwadar port– gateway to the $62 billion CPEC.
The scope of the mega project which has been on the burner off and on, includes the construction of 43.2km of track and the development of 24 stations in the metropolis, as well as the procurement of 162 locomotives.
Once complete, the KCR will serve more than 550,000 commuters per day with projected ridership expected to increase to 750,000 by the year 2030 per day and 915,000 by 2040. The per head fare would be Rs 30 report the Business Recorder.
The route of the proposed KCR will be constructed along the existing (abandoned) track which runs through the heart of Karachi’s various densely populated areas.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) had initially shown interest in the project, however, logistical issues, timing, financing costs, etc. led China to step in and offer a better and fast-track deal through the CPEC framework.
Jica, was to finance the project, which was scheduled to be completed in 10 years. However, under special directives of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, it was decided that the project would be included in CPEC and would be completed within three years by September 2020.
Pakistan’s largest and premier consulting firm NESPAK and its Chinese partner are said to be preparing the detail plans on fast-track basis as the Sindh Government wants to do the groundbreaking of the project on or about December 25.