Lack of locomotives has forced Pakistan Railways (PR) to almost shut its freight train services as passenger and express trains are on the organisation’s priority list, sources say.
Crisis in the Railways is worsening day by day as shortage of locomotives delays departure of many passenger trains by hours. It has now become a routine for express and other passenger trains to reach the destination late due to locomotive failure during the journey.
Sources say trains running on longer routes like Karakoram Express face locomotive failures at least twice during the journey. PR administration is now using all diesel locomotives to run passenger trains, virtually causing a halt to freight train operations, the most profitable area for the Railways.
Currently, one freight train is running on the Karachi-Peshawar route compared to previous at least 10 freight trains that left Karachi junction to different parts of the country every day. PR was earning around Rs8 to Rs9 million per month from each freight train.
Sources say freight services for Goods in Transit for Afghanistan (GITA) have also been badly disturbed by the shortage of locomotives and the lost business has been grabbed by other goods transport companies which use the road network.
Talking to The Express Tribune, PR spokesman said “our first priority is to facilitate the passengers as the Railways is the cheapest mode of transportation, particularly for the poor.”
He said shortage of locomotives and their spare parts was the only reason behind this. “We are waiting for funds from the federal government promised by this July, so we could buy spare parts. If funds are not released this month, then Railways will use its emergency funds to overcome the problem,” he added.
PR is operating with a fleet of 225 diesel locomotives, but most of those are close to reaching the end of their life and have only two traction motors. Each locomotive has six traction motors and at least four motors are required in a locomotive to operate well. According to sources, low-quality Mobil oil is used in these locomotives which results in engine failure.
At present, around 200 trains are running on different tracks, but owing to the shortage of locomotives the PR administration has started operating two separate trains with a single locomotive. For instance, Quetta Express and Jaffar Express leave Quetta separately, but after crossing the hilly area at Sibi junction, coaches of both trains are attached to make it a single train. A single locomotive then takes these trains till Lala Musa, where the coaches are again separated to reach their respective destinations.
The spokesman said Railways needed at least 350 locomotives to run its operations smoothly. “Railways has not been left with any choice but to operate this way till the crisis ends,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2011.