Japan Offers to Finance Modern Mass Transit System in Karachi
|KUTC Trains Source: KUTC|
The mass transit project will feature modern trains with automatic signalling and telecommunication system. An automatic train control (ATC) system will be set up. The train stations will feature computerized ticketing and vending machines, automated ticket gates and elevators. It will be run by Karachi Urban Transport Corporation (KUTC).
Efforts to revive it began in 2005 with a feasibility study conducted by Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) completed in 2006. UK-based Scott Wilson Railways was appointed to validate the report prepared by JETRO. Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA), which is funding the project, sponsored a final study prepared by Special Assistance for Project Formulation (SAPROF). US-based consultants Louis Berger validated the final report. The progress has so far been slow and halting but it now appears that the new government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is pushing to make it happen.
Phase I of the project will include a 28.3 km circular section from Karachi Cantonment to a proposed station at Gulistan-e-Johar. About 9 km of this section will be elevated.
Phase II will consist of the 14.8km circular section from Gulistan-e-Johar to the proposed station at Liaquatabad. This section will have two dedicated tracks along the main line. Phase II also includes a 5.9 km airport line from Drigh Road to Jinnah International Airport. This extension will either have an elevated or underground track. Other bridges, culverts and underpasses, wherever necessary, will be constructed for the project.
Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) is providing the entire funding for the project through a soft loan. The loan is payable in 40 years by the stakeholders of the City District Government Karachi, Pakistan Railways and Government of Sindh. The Karachi Urban Transport Corporation (KUTC) is planning an international tendering process for the project, which will be awarded on a turnkey basis. The winning contractors will operate it for the first two years of operation.
The new KCR will be served by electric multiple units (EMU) with a capacity to carry 1,400 passengers. The maximum speed of the EMUs will be 100 km/h. About 290 trains are expected to operate daily at six-minute intervals.
|Proposed Station Design|
The existing KCR has about 22 level crossings. Since the railway line passes through the major commercial areas of the city, these level crossings need to be removed to ensure that trains can operate every 6 minutes. The level crossings are expected to be removed and replaced by underpasses or overpasses.
There will be significant positive economic impact of this megaproject. In addition to its obvious benefits for the businesses owned by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family, there will be thousands of new jobs created for ordinary Pakistanis during construction and later to operate the system. It will help stimulate Pakistan's stalling economy.
Japan's commercial interest in Pakistan has recently been validated by JETRO survey of Japanese companies doing business in the country. It indicated that Japanese companies have "strong intentions to expand their business for the reasons of “sales increase” and “high growth potential.” in Pakistan. Clearly, the Japanese see significant future potential in Pakistan to increase their economic footprint in the emerging growth market.
The city and the provincial governments have already begun to remove squatters in and around the existing KCR track to begin new construction. Each of the estimated 5,000 affected families is being promised an 80-square-yard newly built home. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is providing financial assistance for the resettlement project, while the KUTC will give an additional Rs 50,000 in financial aid to each affected family, according to a news report.
One of the key concerns is how will the system be managed after the first two years of operation by the turn-key contractors? Will it suffer the same horrible fate as the previous public transport systems have in Karachi? Will it be used to hire political cronies of the ruling politicians? Will it be headed by incompetent and corrupt managers hand-picked by politicians? If the politicians are serious about ensuring a well-run mass transit system in Karachi, they will need to take a page from the Delhi Metro Rail Corp (DMRC) system in India. It is being run very well by an independent professional management team without political interference in its day to day hiring, firing and other management decisions.
It is certainly welcome news that Karachi, the world's fastest growing megacity, will finally have a mass transit system that its residents need and deserve. Let's hope this time it's for real.
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