MAY 20 is the deadline for submission of proposals to revitalise the Karachi Circular Railway as a high-capacity commuter carrier. Pakistan’s National Mass Transit Authority envisages awarding a 25-year build-operate-transfer concession, with railway-owned land and stations forming a government equity stake in the project.

NMTA is looking for private sector promoters to revitalise the 68·2 km corridor to accommodate diesel multiple-unit trains running at 5 or 10 min headways. This would require double-tracking and resignalling of the entire Circular Railway and the PR main line from Cantonment to the junction at Bin Qasim. All level crossings on the ground-level route are to be replaced by bridges or eliminated. The stations will be rebuilt with high-level platforms, new buildings and convenient interchange with local bus routes. The concessionaire will also be expected to supply the necessary fleet of DMUs and the maintenance and stabling depot.

The Circular Railway upgrading forms half of the Karachi Mass Transit Programme, together with the 13·7 km light rail link from Merewether Tower to Karimabad, now costed at US$680m. A concession for this was awarded in 1995 to the Indus Mass Transport Co joint venture led by SNC Lavalin of Canada. IMTC Managing Director Yawar Babar says most engineering design has been completed, but despite promises that work would start last August (RG 3.98 p142), financial close has now been postponed by a year to July 31 1999.