Pakistan Railways Special Report: A journey of neglect, incompetence and corruption

Published: December 3, 2011
The first of a three-part series examines the effect of reduced engines on families and customers. DESIGN-ANAM HALEEM

The first of a three-part series examines the effect of reduced engines on families and customers. DESIGN-ANAM HALEEM


“We have been warning officers for the last three years that the railway system will collapse but our supervisors ignore our recommendations,” says Sagheer Cheema, a mechanic who has been with the organisation for 25 years, speaking on the current disarray that engulfs Pakistan Railways (PR).

“They keep saying they have no funds but it’s not like our in-house replacement stores are empty. We have lots of spare parts, but all the wrong ones,” he adds, alleging that senior officers who are qualified engineers at the public sector organisation have been siphoning off commissions from deals for needless machinery. Railways security has also confirmed that much machinery has stood idle in the in-house replacement stores for years now.

PR officials say that at present around 90 engines are on the tracks – out of a total fleet strength of 500. Thus less than 20% of engines are in working condition. Due to the lack of engines, goods transportation, which was the revenue-generating sector for the organisation, has become almost non-existent.

Additionally, most short-distance trains have been suspended, affecting thousands of passengers who used inner-city rail travel to get to work.  “I went home to a village nearby every day when the inner-city train was in operation,” says Mohammad Sarwar, a frequent passenger at Lahore railway station. Thirty-two-year-old Sarwar works in the city while his family resides in a village in Punjab.

“I have very young children and I wish I could be home with them. Even when I do manage to leave for the city by train, there is no guarantee I will be back home in time to spend some quality time with my family,” Sarwar adds.

Routes to and from major cities suffer a different predicament, as trains are not suspended but are often several hours late, with some journeys delayed for up to hours.

Goods transport comes to a standstill

The dry port in Lahore which manages freight business shows even grimmer prospects as hundreds of bogeys are parked with no engine to pull them.

However, those providing transport services outside the port have found plenty of business. Goods are now being transported through road networks instead. Some experts argue that the continuation of transport through roads would be detrimental not only to the financial health of PR but also the environment of the country as it would result in traffic congestion and damaged roads.

But as business continues to boom for transporters outside the rail network, commuters have begun to complain about the economic feasibility of the system compared to travelling by train. Commuters argue that using alternatives for transport also leads to increased costs, hiking up inflation in the country and adding to the woes of an already ailing Pakistani economy.

“There is almost a two-month delay in the delivery of goods but what can we do? We have no engines,” says Abdul Jabbar Ali, a railway officer handling the freight business. PR officials have also been given strict instructions to continue public trains, no matter what, as senior officials want to avoid protests by the public.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2011. 

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Ishrat Salim
    Dec 3, 2011 - 3:21PM

    PR mess……this is also due to Gen ( R ) M…..will never forget his last parting words….Pakistan Ka Khudae Hafiz… very true…


  • Vaqar - UK
    Dec 3, 2011 - 4:32PM

    What a waste of space! Express Tribune, what’s new or revealing in this “Special Report”? Hardly the cutting edge of investigative journalism.

    Having said that, its sad seeing the railways going down the drain. Used to be a wonderful service in the 60s and 70s.


  • Ali Tanoli
    Dec 3, 2011 - 5:58PM

    Why pakistanis dont strike against crruption and unemployment and for there rights????


  • Somy
    Dec 3, 2011 - 8:25PM

    @Ali Tanoli:
    They are waiting for you to lead.


  • Dec 3, 2011 - 9:15PM

    Its a three part series so plz do wait for the rest to evaluate the story



  • Naeem Qureshi
    Dec 4, 2011 - 2:07PM

    Yes; corruption sank the railways but unluck is that who ever gives his statement to the press proves to be the best critic. Fact is that destroying railways becomes responsibility of all. Journalists who obtain fifty percent concession for them and even for their spouse. Union-men who work nothing but get salaries. They threat officers and take misadvantages by getting unlawful works of the labour and get kickback from them. Passengers prefer to travel without ticket. students get high concessions, nurses, disables and persons attending functions, seminars. retired employees getting fake pensions, Politicians making undue stoppages of trains, getting appointments and so on so forth the liist is lengthy, all are guilty to it but every one at this time is becoming “farishta”. I spent 42 years in railways almost in all the sections and also working as Correspondant of 3 international railway magazines coming out from UK, USA, France. Mun khoob mi shanasam peeran-e-parsa ra.
    Naeem Qureshi


  • AK
    Dec 5, 2011 - 2:07PM

    Atomic power without a functional railway system, ironic and unfortunate.
    What else you guys need to prove that Pakistan is an Army with a nation and not a nation with an Army.


  • Raj
    Dec 16, 2011 - 1:42PM

    Your comment seems very realistic and senseable. I do appreciate ur inside views about the real picture of Pakistan Railways…

    Why no one ever ready to come forward and lead it out of mercy of ill Management ?


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