LAHORE: Although Pakistan Railways (PR) is dying a slow death, its ancillary organisation, Pakistan Railways Advisory and Consultancy Services (PRACS), is not just earning profits but also launching new projects.
PRACS was established in 1976 and is currently being run by retired and on-duty PR officers. While PR is suspending its train operations to cut costs, PRACS is expanding its projects overseas.
With a small team of 800 officers and workers, PRACS has been a profit-earning company in marked contrast to PR. Most of these 800 officers and workers are working on a contract basis.
While PR showed a budget deficit of billions of rupees last year, PRACS posted a profit of Rs48 million.
According to PRACS Assistant Director (Commercial) Khalid Bashir, the net profit of the organisation for fiscal year 2009-10 was over Rs100 million.
“Our operations were disturbed due to the current situation in Pakistan Railways. Still, we’re doing better than it,” he said.
“Most PRACS projects are making profits, however, a major share of these profits is being transferred to Pakistan Railways,” he said.
PRACS is currently running three trains: Fareed Express (Lahore-Karachi), Rohi Express (Rawalpindi-Khanpur) and Hazara Express (Havelian-Rawalpindi-Karachi).
“For Rohi Express and Hazara Express, PRACS gives Rs418 million every year to Pakistan Railways. That is in addition to the 60 per cent share in profit that PRACS has to share with Pakistan Railways,” Bashir said.
Besides operating commercial trains, PRACS also manages 27 reservation centres and two enquiry centres across the country.
A PR officer told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity that one reason PRACS was in profit was that most of its employees worked on a contract basis. “Besides, PRACS also offers better salaries than PR. They know that they’ll be fired immediately if they show any laziness,” he said.
“Permanent employees of PR know that no one can fire them because many of them are affiliated with unions. A majority of them was hired on a political basis. They don’t even bother to come to work. These unskilled employees, and some high-ranking officials, are a huge burden on PR,” he said.
PRACS is also involved in projects in foreign countries. “The Saudi government asked PRACS to prepare the feasibility report of a railway track between Makkah and Madina,” PRACS Managing Director Junaid Quraishi said.
He said PRACS earned Rs27 million annually only by offering catering services on trains. Ninety-five per cent of this amount, he said, was transferred to PR as per the PR-PRACS agreement.
“We’ve just launched our new Lahore-Islamabad overnight courier service,” he said. He added that besides getting eight more commercial trains on track, PRACS was also planning to establish its own countrywide bank.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2011.
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