LAHORE – The revival of the Pakistan Railways is not possible without introduction of an integrated transport policy, end in prevailing corruption (from ticket-less travelling to contract on nepotism basis), and by induction of a good number of locomotives in passenger and freight sectors. An army of officers, land grabbing and a big number of employees (800,000) are other issues needed to be addressed carefully.
It is merit mentioning that till 1970s, the Railways was a self-sustaining organisation run by an autonomous four-member policy forming Railways Board which constituted a Member Traffic, Member Mechanical, Member Civil and Member Finance. The Railways had 821 locomotives in 1948, it now has 528. The rest of the data on the Railways is equally depressing. The public utility has total fleet of around 200 engines right now. Officials say bringing more engines on the tracks will resolve most of Railways’ woes.
“The government – a major stakeholder in rail, road and air transport – needs to design an integrated transport policy where goods are enlisted for economical carriage. Pakistan also desperately requires a transport ministry to regulate and control the industry, similar to what is being done in the UK, India and other developing countries,” say officials.
Transportation of goods, which previously constituted 40 per cent of its revenues, has been reduced to 10 to 15 per cent. Only three to four trains run in freight sector and dry ports are barren.
They say that an integrated policy would benefit the national economy and would bring change in department. Today, with an allocation of around Rs14 billion annual budget, the Railways is in dire financial straits, with scarcity of funds and serviceable locomotives to keep it on track.
With the prevailing crisis, now it is a challenge for new government that how it will bring back old glory of the public utility. Some officers believe the PML-N government would try to run Gul Train between Turkey and Pakistan and that the ‘rail diplomacy’ between India and Pakistan would also go ahead.
The past PPP government had proposed the leasing of Indian train engines in a bid to establish ‘rail diplomacy’ with neighbouring country. The chapter, later, closed owing to criticism and security issues for the Indian locomotives. The officials held that Indian Railways would never be in favour of the deal with Pakistan.
“We are hopeful that new government will try to resolve the issues confronting the public utility as the betterment of the Railways means the betterment of Pakistan,” said a Railways’ union representative.