Destination nowhere: Incapacitated rail engines rotting away

Published: January 6, 2014

These engines are rusting away in the open due to unavailability of spare parts and shortage of funds to make them operational. PHOTOS: MUHAMMAD JAVED/EXPRESS

RAWALPINDI: Rampant neglect and poor administrative decisions have become the hallmarks of Pakistan Railways. In much the same vein, dozens of locomotives purchased from China are rusting away at the rail yard in Rawalpindi due to lack of maintenance and a shortage of funds, effectively masking them a multibillion rupee write-off for the national kitty.

“You would not be far off by calling it a graveyard for locomotives,” said a mechanic fixing a fault in a railway line.

As many as 28 engines purchased during the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) era are standing here after they developed serious faults. These engines are rusting away in the open due to unavailability of spare parts and shortage of funds to make them operational. When The Express Tribune asked mechanics in the vicinity if engines in relatively-good condition could be made functional by fixing or replacing the faulty parts, they responded, “Most of the engines you’re looking at are just boxes without any parts”, referring to the fact that most have already been stripped for parts.

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These engines are rusting away in the open due to unavailability of spare parts and shortage of funds to make them operational. PHOTOS: MUHAMMAD JAVED/EXPRESS

The government would be better off selling them to scrap dealers as repairs will require significant investment, one of them added. The front screens and lights of most have been broken. A senior official of the finance department said that quality-wise, these engines were far inferior and worn down when purchased from China.

“These engines were too large [for the existing rail network], and the department spent an extra Rs1.5 billion reconstructing platforms throughout the country,” he added. He listed problems in the engines, which included damaged crankshafts and oil tanks, which caused further revenue losses to the department.  “Sometimes, all the oil would drain out of the tank and we would have to send another train to provide oil to bring the passengers to stations,” he said.

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These engines are rusting away in the open due to unavailability of spare parts and shortage of funds to make them operational. PHOTOS: MUHAMMAD JAVED/EXPRESS

In addition, the engines were computerised and harder to operate for local drivers who were not given the relevant training. “These 69 locomotives cost the national treasury Rs300 million each,” the officer informed. Unfortunately, the department even lacks the funds to protect them from rusting by painting them, he said.

The official also informed that the railway ministry plans on purchasing 40 more engines from China and South Korea.

When Divisional Superintendent Munawar Shah was contacted, he said the engines had been parked outside for repair. “Funds have been allocated for repair, and the engines will soon be made operational,” he said, rejecting the claim that their parts had been removed. He also said that most out-of-order engines parked in rail yards in other cities have been repaired. Replying to a question, he said the process of making Pakistan Railway a profitable department will be slow, but the target is now being achieved. He added that the engines were properly painted and cleared of dirt before being parked at the rail yard.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (2)

  • Anoni
    Jan 6, 2014 - 8:43AM

    Can i take charge to fix this if these people can’t ?

    Recommend

  • polpot
    Jan 6, 2014 - 11:45AM

    And now Chinese nuclear plants will be installed in Karachi?
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    God be kind.

    Recommend

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