Despite investing heavily, Pakistan still rely on a sinalling system from the colonial era. Two recent accidents in Punjab province, in which nine people were killed and over 150 injured, were reportedly caused by “out-dated signalling systems
Lahore: Pakistan Railways has been hit by a Rs 16-billion scam relating to replacement of its colonial-era signalling system with a modern system, according to an internal audit report that has forced the government to probe a consortium of Bombardier Transport and Chinese company.
Despite investing heavily, Pakistan still rely on a sinalling system from the colonial era. Two recent accidents in Punjab province, in which nine people were killed and over 150 injured, were reportedly caused by “out-dated signalling systems”.
According to the Internal Audit Report, two projects to update the signalling systems were awarded to a consortium of Bombardier Transport and China Railways Signal and Communication Corporation (BT-CRSC) in 2008-09.
“The project cost had swelled to Rs 16 billion till 2014. The incumbent administration under Khawaja Saad Rafique, Railways Minister, allocated additional Rs 7 billion but the projects could not be completed,” the report said.
The report has recommended sending the matter to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for criminal proceedings against the contractor and officials responsible for the fraud.
Interestingly, the minister completely ignored the 98-page audit report and allocated the additional Rs 7 billion for the projects in violation of prescribed rules.
“We are looking into the matter and refer it to the NAB for investigation,” a government official said. “All those responsible for fraud in the signalling system projects will be taken to task,” he added.
More than 400 train accidents has happened since Rafique took over in mid 2013, according to the railways record. In most cases the railways’ chief has blamed drivers for the tragedies.
The driver involved with last week’s collision between a passenger and a freight train claimed that the signal was green and hence the confusion led to the accident.
“Critical infrastructure – especially tracks and the signalling system – cannot be left unattended and must be constantly monitored and maintained to avoid such accidents.
Some of the infrastructure damaged in Sindh in the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto’s 2007 assassination still awaits repair,” an official said.
An editorial in the Dawn newspaper on the issue has suggested to the Nawaz Sharif government to learn from India.
“We can learn from India with whom we share a common colonial Railways’ heritage. The authorities there have managed to install an automated signalling system on most of the main lines. Considering the commonalities, perhaps our Railways’ authorities can study our eastern neighbour’s model,” the editorial said.