Karachi Circular Railway Project Revived Again: Detailed Review

Karachi Circular Railway Project Revived Again: Detailed Review

In Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan, the Karachi Circular Railway is a partially active regional public transit system that serves the metropolitan area of Karachi. Between 1969 and 1999, KCR was entirely operative. The reconstruction of the railway infrastructure and the restarting of the system have been pursued since 2001. The KCR partly resumed operations in November 2020.

On November 19, the long-proposed restart of services on part of the Karachi Circular Railway was celebrated with an inaugural train.

A Brief Introduction About KCR

With its hub at the station in Karachi City on I. I. Chundrigar Road, the resurrected operations of KCR will stretch north to Gadap, east to Dhabeji, south to Kiamari, and west to Hub. In order to link the city center with many industrial and commercial districts within the city and the suburbs, the resurrected KCR service is planned to become an inter-regional rapid transit system in Karachi.

Since being extinct, KCR’s revival attempt has been proposed many times, but it remained unfulfilled due to a lack of financial and political backing. The federal government funded an Rs27.9 billion (US$170 million) reconstruction package for the KCR in May 2017, but delays and conflicts with the provincial government of Sindh eventually led to the funding being cancelled.

A Rs10.5 billion (US$63 million) reconstruction package for the KCR restoration was approved by the federal government in August 2020. According to Ameer Muhammad Daudpota, the funding is slated to cover just phase one and phase two of KCR’s reconstruction program, close to the restoration of the Karachi-Peshawar Railway Line.

About KCR Project Recent Revival

On the initial 14 km of the 55 km orbital route around the capital, Pakistan Railways reopened a passenger service, which was established in the 1960s to encourage travel between residential, commercial, industry and educational areas. KCR ridership peaked at six million passengers a year, leading to unsustainable losses due to infrastructure decline, a culture of fare avoidance, and corruption charges involving rival road transport operators. In 1999, services stopped.

Revival proposals have been under consideration for several years, and recent development has been made with government funds allocated for the reconstruction of roads and the powers gained for lifting encroachments on the alignment.

Planning and management

There will initially be four trains a day per way, with departures to Manghopir, SITE, Shah Abdul Latif, Baldia, Lyari, Wazir Mansion, and Karachi City from Orangi at 06.30, 10.00, 13.00 and 16.00. The trains proceed from Karachi City over the mainline to the Pipri Marshalling Yard, where the 06.30 train is expected to arrive at 09.15; speeds are exceptionally poor on the restored portion of the line, with manual controls triggering level crossing delays.

The single fare is Rs30 and Rs750 is available for monthly season tickets.

Phase 2 of the reopening will include the portion of the loop from Orangi to Gilani where part of the alignment was used for a busway. By reopening the section between Gilani and the mainline at Drigh Colony, Step 3 will complete the circuit around the area.


Rs1·8bn has been allotted by the government for the KCR revival scheme, of which Rs17m has so far been spent at the Islamabad workshop on clearing the first section of the route and refurbishing buses. The coaches have been repainted to differentiate them from inter-city trains in a white, blue, and red livery. Every coach has a capacity of 64 passengers sitting and 36 standing. Speaking at the inauguration, Sheikh Rashid, Minister for Railways, said he had intended to replace the buses, but only one offer came from three tenders.

The minister said that the complete route will be modernized within a year but the government of the province of Sindh needs to reclaim control of the alignment in order to enable construction to advance.

He also said that once the reopening was done, PR was able to hand over the KCR to a private operator.

‘We’re going to do a lot of railway work, and if God is willing, we’re going to try to reduce Karachi’s problems,’ he said.

Background Behind Karachi Circular Railway Project

During the reign of President Ayub Khan, who proposed the use of trains as a means of short travel in Karachi in 1962, the Karachi Circular Railway came into being. Under the administration of Pakistan Railways, operations began in 1969, with the goal of providing Karachi’s increasing population and outlying suburban communities with better transport facilities.

Extension to Landhi Junction station

The initial KCR line extended from Karachi City station and ended at Drigh Road station that year, carrying 6 million passengers. In its first year of service, its immediate success made Pakistan Railways a considerable profit. In 1970, though the new track was expanded westward, KCR was extended further east to Landhi Junction station, thus opening Karachi Port Trust Halt station and Wazir Mansion station in 1970.

Throughout the 1970s, the track to North Nazimabad was further stretched westward and northward, creating a “loop line” that circled around many residential and industrial areas of Karachi. KCR served 104 daily trains at its peak, of which 80 trains were on the mainline, while the remaining 24 were on the loop line.

Karachi’s private transporters contracted KCR workers during the 1990s and indulged in graft. By 1994, owing to mismanagement, KCR was incurring large losses. As a result, with just a handful remaining on the ring, the vast majority of trains were withdrawn. By 1999, operations of KCR were suspended. The official explanation for the discontinuation was that by operating the trains across the city with few passengers taking advantage of the facility, Pakistan Railways was said to be making a loss.

The Mismanagement

Another version indicates that in order to satisfy their ambition to bag the bulk of passengers for themselves, private transporters conspired with certain dishonest railway workers. The outcome triggered immediate gridlock on the streets of Karachi. The mismanagement of Pakistan Railways, as well as the “road transport mafia” of Karachi, have been seriously criticized.

Revival plans for the KCR were launched in 2005 to satisfy Karachi’s increasing transportation needs, but never completely materialized. In 2009, a proposal was made for the Karachi Urban Transport Company to run KCR as a semi-autonomous entity. Pakistan Railways will have a 60% stake in the company, 25% in the state of Sindh, and 15% in Karachi.

Revival Timeline Of KCR Project

The alleged “revival efforts” of the KCR have generated a substantial amount of scrutiny. Since 2001, numerous surveys and feasibility analyses have produced little real work on the ground.

Politicians in both the Government of Sindh and the Government of Pakistan have officially released several proposals, both of which have accepted plans and promised financing. Yet without any work commencing, each date passed by.

The below is a timeline of comments made over the past 15 years by many politicians, all of whom boldly offered starting dates for the KCR project:

24 March 2003

Ghos Bakhsh Khan Mahar, Minister of Railways, claimed that it was intended to revive the KCR, for which feasibility studies and tenders would be floated and awarded to the lowest bidder, adding that the KCR would operate in the private sector. After this announcement, nothing materialized.

09 March 2005

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz inaugurates the first phase of the KCR, stating that the project will be resumed “within a few years or so in three stages. It promised to spend Rs3.5 billion (US$21 million) on the full reconstruction of the KCR. None of the other two stages were ever finished and the first phase was shut down after one year.

30 April 2010

Railway Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour has declared that construction work will commence in 2010. The project’s phases I and II will launch simultaneously and be finished within three years and will be open to the public by 2014. Without some job commencing, this date expired.

09 April 2012

 Aijaz Hussain Khilji, Managing Director of Karachi Urban Transport Company, claimed that construction work would commence in June 2013 and hoped it would be completed by June 2017. Without some job commencing, this date expired.

08 August 2012

Muhammad Hussain Syed, Karachi Metropolitan Corporation Administrator, reported that the KCR reconstruction study report had been completed and that construction would resume by September 2013. JICA agreed to a loan of Rs260 billion (US$1.6 billion) to the Karachi Urban Transport Company to oversee KCR’s restoration and refurbishment. The plans called for the 50-kilometer long circular loop line to be upgraded and rebuilt, running 24 trains that would facilitate 700,000 commuters, making 3-minute stops at 23 stations. This strategy never materialized, though.

09 December 2016

Minister of Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique declared that Pakistan Railways would handover administrative power to the Sindh government, but would require KCR property land being allocated for other purposes to be cleared first. After this announcement, nothing materialized.

30 September 2017

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah stated that the KCR project would commence on 25 December 2017 after claiming that the KCR route had been cleared of all invasions and that Pakistan Railways was on board to acquire 360 acres of land for the right of way. Without some job commencing, this date expired.

18 January 2018

Syed Murad Ali Shah, Sindh’s Chief Minister, now says that work on the KCR project will commence on 23 March 2018. He said that he is going to give the people of Karachi who need KCR in March good news.

01 March 2020

Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, Minister of Railways, said that the Karachi Circular Railway “will be operationalized in six months” in partnership with the Sindh government.

20 August 2020

Rs150 billion (US$910 million) was allocated to the KCR alignment in the federal budget for fiscal year 2020–21, while Rs207 billion (US$1.2 billion) was allocated to the Sindh provincial budget.

19 November 2020

In Karachi Orangi Station at Pipri Yard, Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid inaugurates the KCR.

Summing It Up

Pakistan Railways Chairman Dr Habib Ur Rehman Gilani told local media that the ambition was to enable trains to run at 80 km/h on the route with fencing on both sides of the track and the elimination of crossings. He envisaged that this could be completed in 2½ years, using private financing through a PPP agreement.

5/5 - (2 votes)

Compare listings