Tickets Rs50 and route to be expandedI have to travel almost 25kms every day to get to work. So when I heard the news that the old Karachi Circular Railway was being started up again from Nov 16, it felt like a dream come true.The Pakistan Railways unveiled its route according to which four trains each would run up and down between Orangi and Pipri.The first Up train would leave at 6:30am from Orangi Station near Nazimabad Bara Maidan. From there it would go to Manghopir, SITE, Shah Abdul Latif, Baldia, Lyari, Wazir Mansion, Karachi City, Karachi Cantt, Departure Yard, Drigh Road, Airport Halt, Malir Colony, Malir, Landhi, Jumma Goth, Bin Qasim, Badal Nala and ultimately reach Marshalling Yard at Pipri at 9:15am. The entire trip would take around 2hrs and 45 mins.This is not my route to work, but I was happy to hear that KCR was returning after 21 years and thought that as connections grew I might also be able to travel to work hassle-free.I knew that I had to be on the first KCR ride so I took along our video editor Rahim Sajwani and we boarded the train from Orangi Station at 10am Thursday so we could go all the way to Drigh Road and get a feel for what it was like to be on an inner-city ride.Much to our dismay, we were informed that the route from Orangi to City Station has been excluded and now the KCR would only be operating between Pipri and City Station.City Station is visible from our office cafeteria off II Chundrigar Road. On Thursday morning, we could clearly see the shiny blue and white bogies. We took our equipment and left for the station. As we entered it, we saw a banner saying a one-way ticket was Rs50. (Later, Minister Sheikh Rasheed announced that the fare would be Rs30.)New bogies were parked on platform No. 3. But in our excitement, we forgot to ask if this was where the train would be departing.It was only after 15 minutes and a lot of photograph-taking that we realized that this was not the right platform. We went towards the information counter only to find it empty. As I looked around for someone who could guide us, I saw a railway official in his crisp-white uniform on a bench.“Will they be able to run the KCR as they plan to?” I asked. It seemed as if he had been waiting a long time for someone to ask this.“Are you kidding? Have you seen the condition of the track?” he said. “They can’t.”He revealed that the Federal Government Inspector of Railways, the authority that gives the final approval for any route, had not recommending running the KCR on the Orangi-City Station track. It said that the track was not safe and there were no crossings on the points where the track crosses main intersections.“The track they are starting the KCR on is the local train’s route,” he explained. “The KCR route goes through the city. If they want it to succeed, they’ll have to restore the original route.”He guided us towards platform No. 5. It had a red carpet, upon which the minister had probably stood just minutes earlier.And in fact, as we reached the platform, we saw him answering reporter questions. Sheikh Rashed said that by the 14th of next month, they would install eight crossings and include Orangi on the route. As he finished his speech and moved to cut the ribbon, we started walking towards the far end of the train. Unlike many others who wanted to board the same bogie as the minister, we wanted to find a less crowded one.I found that the door of the KCR bogies opened very smoothly, unlike those of other trains I had been on.The carriage is white inside. On one side it has two-seaters and on the other single seats. Every other seat has a charging port and fan.Railing runs throughout the carriage with grips for passengers who stand.Two screens at opposite ends of the carriage were playing patriotic songs.The ride from City to Cantt Station took 15-20 minutes and was so comfortable enough that commuters could easily travel standing.When we arrived at Cantt Station I couldn’t help wonder how easy it would be to commute between home and office if the KCR actually did run its full route and expanded to include other parts of the city.
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