Karachi: The major sign is bad governance is to ignore simple and handy solutions to resolve public issues and opt for complicated, costly and unsustainable solutions at the cost of taxpayers’ money. Urban public transport sector of the capital of Sindh province is a textbook example of this bad governance and rulers deliberately are avoiding finding homegrown solutions to this problem.
There is no two opinions on the revival of Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) to mitigate the sufferings of Karachi commuters and though it is an easiest option to repair and track and run local trains on it without importing any foreign technology or getting costly foreign loans but both the federal and Sindh governments are shying away to start repair of KCR. The engineers and workers of Pakistan Railways can repair the KCR track within just two months and run local trains on it, but the rulers dislike this simple solution as there is no commission and kickbacks in it.
The project of Green CNG buses is a glaring example of corruption and mismanagement. These buses were imported at the cost of about Rs1 billion and they developed technical faults within one year! They were parked in bus depots, Korean engineers and technicians were summoned to get them repaired and some of them were repaired. However, the government is not disclosing the cost of their repair and rehabilitation. In Karachi private transporters successfully run 80 to 100 years old buses, but the brand new buses of governments developed faults within one year! This is nothing but corruption and mismanagement and it needs no further explanation but a serious inquiry by FIA and NAB.
Public transport experts believe that the KCR is the key to resolve public transport issue in Karachi for good. Running KCR again is not a rocket science. The main track of Pakistan Railways from the City Station to the Landhi Station is fully functional now. It does not need anything but some locomotives and rolling stock to run very profitable local trains on this crowded route during morning and evening rush hours. To ensure even more profitability and sustainability the road transport routes permits given to private transporters on Landhi-Tower route should be cancelled, so that public can fully use the KCR local trains. More local train stations could be established on this route near Kala-Pul/ JMPC, PIDC and Jang Press to facilitate local train commuters. To restrain corruption ticket checking system should be made more comprehensive by deputing one ticket checker in every bogy. This is a very lucrative route and the Pakistan Railway and Karachi Urban Transport Corporation could earn a huge profit if they devise a sensible and corruption-free business plan for this route.
The second phase of KCR revival is repair of KCR loop. It is difficult but also doable. If the Sindh government, Pakistan Railways and Karachi Urban Transport Corporation seek help from Sindh rangers, illegal encroachments from the KCR lands could be easily removed and local trains could be run on this route successfully after its repair. Pakistan Railway is fully capable to repair this loop within a couple of months, and even in one month if work is carried out in three shifts.
As this solution is cost effective, practical, corruption-free and amazingly simple, it is understandable that the rulers in the Centre and Sindh province do not like it. However, there is not short-term, cost effective and time saving option to improve public transport system of Karachi and the ruling and opposition parties in Sindh would ultimately have to accept this plan and swallow the bitter pill of running local trains in the city at the cost of their commission and kickbacks from potential foreign-funded public transport projects that are feared to be hugely overpriced and unreliable.