Pakistan Railways (PR) is planning to run a business train on the basis of public-private partnership, which will facilitate the business community and bring revenues for the railways as fares may be higher than normal, says a PR official.
For the service, which will run between Lahore and Karachi, the railways will provide air-conditioned coaches and locomotives to the contractor who is interested in operating the train. The private party will manage the train commercially and give a fixed amount to the railways annually.
PR spokesman Mohsin Yousif said “we have received a couple of proposals from contractors for the train but their offers were too low to consider. We are also in negotiations with the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and are hoping it will win the contract. However, the contract to it will only be given after open tenders.”
He said preference would be given to the business train compared to passenger and express trains and it would be ensured that these reach their destinations on time.
He said a contract would be awarded for running two trains – one will run from Lahore to Karachi and the other from Karachi to Lahore simultaneously. Special meals and beverages will be served during the journey which will be part of the agreement.
The spokesman said the proposal was in its final stages and the administration was hopeful that the train would start operating by August 14 this year.
This is not the first time that PR has floated the proposal of operating a train service based on public-private partnership. Ten years ago, PR experimented the same way on the Lahore-Faisalabad route but that service came to a halt after one year.
At present, three trains – Farid Express, Rohi Express and Hazara Express – are commercially operated by Pakistan Railways Advisory and Consultancy Services (Pracs), an organisation formed by retired railway officers. These trains are also delayed like other services, but ticket theft is lower due to the public-private partnership.
The marriage train project also could not take off as no reservations had been made since the resumption of service a couple of months ago.
A railways officer, seeking anonymity, told The Express Tribune that the business train plan might not succeed as fares might be close to airline fares. “Only the businessmen travelling as a group will prefer the train as in this case they may get some discount,” he said.
However, he said if the train departed and arrived on time, then it might attract other passengers also. He said the railways administration should make sure that the train operated daily, otherwise it would have to bear the blame for any failure.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2011.
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