The newly launched public-private venture between Pakistan Railways (PR) and Four Brothers to operate Pakistan’s first ever ‘business train’, the Pak Business Express, is in trouble a week into operation.
The Railways administration has decided to consult its legal team to review their agreement after the company failed to pay railways as per contract.
According to the contract between Four Brothers and PR, the private partner has to pay railways nearly Rs3.1 million per day. Failure to make timely payments would create a backlog, which till February 8, had risen to Rs 10.05 million.
General Manager Railways Saeed Akhter while talking to The Express Tribune, said that the company had so far paid Rs5 million in separate payments of Rs2.5 million each. Railways, Akhter said, was not in a position to allow such a payment schedule due to its own financial crunch. “I will call upon our lawyer today (Thursday) to discuss what we can do in this regard,” he said.
Akhter said that the main purpose behind the railways getting involved in such a joint venture was to ensure that regular payments to railways were made and offer some relief and generate additional revenue.
The second reason, he said, was to give commuters quality service. “Service is also important, but more important is the revenue generation for us,” the PR GM said
The Express Tribune tried to contact the management of Pak Business Express, but to no avail.
The business train started its first journey to Karachi on February 3, after being inaugurated by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani. Its regular train service started the following day. However, since its inaugural, the pricing of the Business Train has surfaced as a major sticking point. The management is currently planning to revise its packages to attract more passengers. One way ticket price was set at Rs5000.
The company has so far invested around Rs 150 million in the project just in renovating and upgradating old PR coaches and a business lounge at Lahore Railway station.
Akhter said that the company as per agreement is bound to invest a total of Rs 220 million, in which they will also construct a business lounge in Karachi since railways had no space to provide them at the Karachi station.