Karachi is located in the Sindh Province of Pakistan and has a population of 16.05 million (2017) spread over an area of 1,200 sq.km. The public transportation situation in Karachi is such that the average number of people competing per one seat in a bus is 45 compared to 12 in Mumbai and 8 in Hong Kong.

Following is the mode share comparison by vehicle type and occupancy between 2008 and 2018.

Fig.1. Mode share comparison by vehicle type and occupancy between 2008 and 2018.

In the past decade, there has been a consistent modal shift away from public transport (see Fig.1 above). In 2018, public buses account for only 3% of the overall vehicles on Karachi’s arterial routes and they transport about 34% of the passengers, compared to respectively 6% and 53% in 2008. Taxis and auto-rickshaws (paratransit) represent 13% of the total volume of vehicles in 2018 and they transport 12% of the people, compared to 10% and 6% respectively in 2008.

Also the mode share of private cars has slightly dropped, now representing 31% of the overall vehicles and transporting 21% of the people compared to 36% and 25% in 2008.

In comparison, the mode share of motorcycles has increased notably, now transporting 33% of the overall users compared to 16% a decade before, accounting for 53% of all vehicles transiting on the roads of Karachi compared to 47% in 2008.

Clearly, the above statistics makes for a compelling case for strengthening public transportation within the city. Accordingly, the Government of Pakistan, with the help of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), formulated the ‘Karachi Transportation Improvement Plan 2030’, which includes the following (refer to Fig.2 below):

Long term strategy

  • The revival of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR)
  • Two Mass Rapid Transit Lines i.e. Blue & Brown

Medium term strategy

  • Six Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines i.e. Yellow, Green, Orange, Red, Purple & Aqua

Immediate action programme


  • Twenty developed/under-developed routes identified for inter-city bus operations.
  • Introduction of approximately 288 buses on twenty structured inter-city routes.

Intracity (Karachi)

  • Thirty priority routes for the operation of standard buses to supplement the MRT and BRT Route Network.
  • Streamlined introduction of approx. 630 buses on 30 priority routes in the first phase.

Fig.2. Karachi Mass Transit Plan.

In this case study, we’ll focus specifically on one key element of the long term strategy, the revival of the Karachi Circular Railway.

Revival of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR)

The Karachi circular railway was first commissioned in 1964. It remained an effective mass transportation system until 1984 when the operational efficiency started deteriorating, resulting in a reduction of ridership and subsequent closure in December 1999.

Considering the urgent intervention required to improve the status of public transportation in the city, the Government of Pakistan has taken up the revival of the KCR to de-congest the city core and enable efficient and convenient movement of people (Fig.3). The project is now also part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

As the former KCR was not in use since 1999, about 20% of the right-of-way (RoW) was encroached on by informal settlements. In order to revive the KCR, the government has decided to secure the land within RoW, but for this to happen without negatively impacting the communities in informal settlements, it introduced a rehabilitation and resettlement programme for the Project Affected Households (PAHs), which also applies to BRT corridors. The resettlement programme is a participatory programme, whereby PAHs are consulted and engaged in the planning and decision making related to the provision of support they are eligible for.

A detailed Resettlement Action Plan study of these informal settlements has been prepared following a thorough interaction and consultation with the people who are to be relocated. Since the relocation of PAHs would have taken 4 to 5 years, resulting in a huge delay of the project, a Domestic Plan has been worked out to separate the resettlement component from the main KCR Project.

Fig.3. Route Alignment of the KCR.

Key features of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR)

The KCR is a 43.13 km long railway network which is now planned to be developed as a mass rapid transit rail network. A 14.95 km segment of the KCR will be developed at the ground level while the remaining 28.18 km segment as an elevated corridor. The overall cost of the project is of USD 1,971 billion, but once complete and operational the KCR is expected to transport about 550,000 passengers per day.

Implementation Status

1. Resolution of issues between Government of Pakistan (GoP) & Government of Sindh (GoS):

  • Handing over of the control of Karachi Urban Transport Corporation Ltd. (a special-purpose entity formed for the implementation of the KCR) to GoS.
  • Handing over of RoW for the KCR to GoS.
  • Provision of sovereign guarantee by the Ministry of Finance.

2. Removal of informal settlements – In pursuance of the directives of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the district administration and KMC & DS Railways have started ensuring RoW.

3. Protection of RoW – GoS has already approved the Annual Development Plan Scheme to provide fences to protect the railways.

Next Steps

The transportation system has been planned for the entire city core. As and when possible the network will be further expanded. The next steps needed to accelerate the implementation of the project are:

  • Securing RoW;
  • Securing the finance required for the project implementation;
  • Multi-stakeholder buy-in;
  • Having a procurement strategy in place for physical infrastructure and procurement of coaches;
  • Getting the contractors on board outlining the operations and maintenance plans;
  • The construction of physical infrastructure;
  • Project closeout and handover for commencing operations.

Links to further Information

Brief On Revival Of Karachi Circular Railway Project

Govt. of Sindh – Presentation on Mass Transit Projects in Karachi (December 2018)

Contact Details

Muhammad Maswood Alam

Senior Director (Coordination), Mayor Secretariat

Karachi Metropolitan Corporation

M.A. Jinnah Road, Karachi, Pakistan

Tel: +92 333 3421371

Email: alam437@gmail.com

  • Economic
  • Environmental
  • Health
  • Social
Key Impact
Reduction in traffic congestion, benefits on air quality, plus the provision of formal housing for all people impacted by the project.
Initial Investments
USD 1,971 billion
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