The NA body is dissatisfied with the progress made on the KCR and ML-1 project. More than a month after Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone for the Karachi Circular Railways amid much media fanfare, the performance of the currently available and operational service came under severe criticism from lawmakers on Wednesday, who stated that the Pakistan Railways should undergo a massive overhaul to bring them up to required standards, which we’re currently deteriorating.
Members of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Railways observed the second part of their three-day journey and inspection of the KCR route.
“Unfortunately, the situation is far from ideal or hopeful,” NA standing committee chairman Muhammad Moeen Wattoo told Dawn during the visit.
“We travelled on tracks from Orangi Town to City Station [one of the KCR routes], and the trip was not pleasant. I even joked with officials from Pakistan Railways that a man on foot could cover the distance faster than this train service. It was painfully slow. With this rate of growth, how can you expect it to become a popular service? It serves no use at all,” he stated.
The $6.8 billion ML-1 projects would take eight and a half years to complete.
Similarly, he stated that overhead bridges and underpasses were critical for scaling up the KCR service since it would otherwise fail to achieve the intended outcomes. He mentioned several level-crossings in the central business district that needed to be renovated and stated that members from the lower parliament had recorded their opinions.
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Mr Wattoo also questioned the utility and effectiveness of the ML-1 project, which had been widely publicised and lauded by Pakistan Railways officials but had yet to take flight.
Following the briefing by Pakistan Railways, the NA body was convinced that the project entailed various benefits for the country and may improve the country’s transportation sector in the long run, although several formalities remained outstanding.
“We are dissatisfied with the progress [on ML-1] that has been made,” he stated. “We constantly hear about its benefits and advantages, but no one informs us of the project’s actual location on the ground. Numerous formalities, documentation procedures, and contractual needs are outstanding. We have not yet finished several tasks and processes with China that must be done before the tender. Then would put it up for tender and other considerations. As a result, we are a long way away. This performance is lacking in quality.”
Meanwhile, a Pakistan Railways official stated that the NA committee was briefed that the ML-1 project would boost Pakistan Railways’ performance and benefit the country’s economy.
“The authorities briefed the standing committee on the ML-1 project and the Karachi Division scrap auction held by Pakistan Railways five years ago. The committee was informed that the ML-1 project would be completed in three phases over an anticipated 8.5 years at the cost of US $6.6806 billion,” he explained.
While updating the NA committee on the money produced by the Karachi Division’s coach sale during the last five years, the official stated that halted the auction in 2016-17 due to low pricing.
Later, he stated, revenue from auctions increased to Rs343 million in 2017-18, Rs71.43 million in 2018-19, Rs11.86 million in 2019-20, and Rs198.613 million in 2020-21 following its reinstatement.
Nisar Ahmad Memon, CEO of PR, Chief Engineer Irfan ul Haq, Hanif Gul, divisional superintendent of Karachi, Amir Muhammad, project director of KCR, and other top officials were present.
Sheikh Rashid Shafiq, Aftab Jehangir, Nusrat Wahid, Engineer Sabir Hussain Qaim Khani, Muhammad Hamid Hameed, and Muhammad Khan were among the members of the NA committee.
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