LAHORE: After Pakistan Railways (PR) stopped using its electric locomotives for passenger trains September last, and using only a few for freight operations, it has now decided to abolish the electric locomotion entirely.
The electric locos were introduced in 2009 for the 286 kilometers Lahore-Khanewal junction in order to moderise the system and save scarce foreign exchange required for import of fuel for diesel locomotives.
After increasingly frequent copper theft incidents at various points along the track and on account of lack of funds for replacement of these locomotives, the service was suspended in 2010.
Earlier, the electric train operation between Khanewal and Sahewal was suspended in July, 2009. The decision was taken after the Khanewal-Raiwind tract was doubled.
After the suspension of the operations between the junctions, PR had been using electric locomotives for small routes and for freight trains.
A few electric locomotives were also used for express passenger trains in the absence of diesel locomotives.
A PR official told The Express Tribune that due to the lack of funds, these electric locomotives had been parked in sheds for the last six months. He said there were a total of 16 electric locomotives parked at the sheds. Thirteen of which, he said, had crashed and three needed to be fixed.
He said if the PR took the matter seriously, running electric locomotives again was not a problem. The locomotives only required a few thousand rupees to be overhauled, he added. Another official told the Tribune that the theft of copper wire at some junctions had become a serious problem and a major cause in shutting the locomotives down.
“Almost 75 per cent of the conductor has been stolen since the inception of this project. The remaining 25 per cent is now being sold by the PR itself through tenders”, he said. The locos cannot run without copper wires, he said.
Muhammad Khaskheli, a PR mechanical engineer, told the Tribune that electrical locomotives were far more economical than the diesel locomotives. He regretted not a single electric locomotive was now on track and that the PR was entirely dependent on diesel locomotives.
He said that 84 employees had been hired for electric locomotives. After the suspension of the locos, 64 of them were moved to the Lahore diesel loco shed, three in a loco shop in Mughalpura and 10 were still working in the electric shed. The remaining seven employees, who were class-3 officers and supervisors, were posted in the PR headquarters.
He said that these seven employees were being paid a total monthly salary of Rs194,190 while the other 77 were given a total monthly salary of Rs1,188,000. If the PR decided to re-launch the electric locomotives, the shortage of electric power will be another issue, he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2011.