KARACHI                  -          Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said here on Sunday that main purpose of his visit to the city was to meet with the Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah to discuss with him issues pertaining to the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), on the directives of the apex court.

“KCR is a project of the Sindh government, and we will assist the province if it makes some progress [for its restoration]. Karachi is the jugular vein of rail­way and a railway university will be built in Sindh under the ML-1 [Main Line 1] project. I had built two universities in Rawalpindi,” he informed.

Responding as to which proj­ect would be completed first, the minister said that Main Line-1 (ML-1) is 1,885- kilometer long railway track and is a bigger proj­ect than the KCR. “The latter is only meant for Karachi while the other project is meant for the en­tire country,” he said.

“ML-1 project will generate 100,000 jobs for people. We are going to privatize and upgrade railway hospitals with the sup­port of the government.”

The minister further informed that the government had decided to recover the railway land from encroachers, and utilize it for the purpose of revenue gen­eration. “We have precious lands in the city near Pearl Continental (PC), Stock Ex­change build­ing, NLC plot and in Jumma Goth area,” he said, and add­ed, “And in order to retake their possession, we will approach the Supreme Court (SC).” Rasheed said that although railway tracks had been in occupation for years, but these would not remain occu­pied for long.

He said that Pakistan Railways (PR), a state-owned entity, had 38-canal land and Prime Minister Imran Khan would take final deci­sion on how to utilize it. He said that 31 canals of land had been retrieved from the encroach­ers so far. “We have reduced the losses by up to Rs4 billion, and it is our target to further shrink it by Rs6 billion this year. In today’s session, we have decided to hand over PR land to the Sindh govern­ment as most of the land is not in our us­age.” Inform­ing about the another deci­sion taken at today’s meet­ing, Rashid said that since Kara­chi was country’s business hub, therefore, the government had decided to permanently appoint a senior official in the city to deal with the matters relating to freight.

The minister further informed that the decision had been taken to upgrade railways workshop in Hyderabad, saying that usu­ally the bogies and other material had to be transported to Mughal­pura in Lahore for repair, but now these would be repaired in Hy­derabad.

He said that a 154-kilometer long rail track, connecting Thar with other parts of the country, was to be laid, and the govern­ment had invited tenders on BOT basis. “This will also generate more revenues for the railway,” he said while saying that the Supreme Court (SC) judge had asked him to submit the plan for increasing revenue generation of the department.

He said that the department could not launch new trains as already the trains’ schedule was very tight.

The minister said that the gov­ernment had introduced a free track policy under which anyone wishing to bring his train on the track would be invited, and run the business on public private partnership.