ISLAMABAD: The Senate standing committee on Railways has advised the government to provide subsidised diesel to the department of Railways.
The Railways secretary told the panel in a meeting here that because of lack of funds, Railways is unable to induct new locomotives and passenger coaches. He said the department is in urgent need of improving the signals system and the old tracks need to be replaced. But, he added, the paucity of funds is the main hindrance in the way of modernisation of the system. He said a proposal is under consideration to introduce a system of public-private partnership to generate funds.
He said the department of Railways had asked the government for Rs 27 billion for the next fiscal year but the government has only allocated Rs14 billion. He said the department planned to purchase 75 electric locomotives from China. He added that the cost of a Chinese electric locomotive is $1.2 million while a US-made locomotive costs $2.6 million. General Manager Operations of the Pakistan Railways informed the Senate committee that the department has imported 175 new passenger coaches. He said 202 passenger coaches require repairs but the cost of repair is the same as the cost of importing new ones because repair is done with imported components. He said three trains are being used to transport goods from Karachi to the rest of the country.
He revealed that 15 goods trains are non-operational because their locomotives are out of order. As a result, the department has suffered a Rs109 billion loss over the last ten months. Senator Pervez Rasheed of the PML-N suggested that Railways should be made an independent corporation. The committee meeting was presided by its chairman Gul Naseeb and attended by Professor Ibraheem, Abdul Rasheed, Farah Aqil Shah, Abbas Khan, Pervez Rasheed and Abdul Khaliq Peerzada.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 27th, 2010.