The precarious condition of Pakistan Railways (PR) is not expected to get better in the next one and a half years as rehabilitated and modern locomotives, which are direly needed, will take at least a year to arrive, says a PR official.
“The corporation needs serious attention of the government because the biggest source of public transport is in danger. Not a single passenger or express train is running in profit and we are bearing losses only to facilitate the people,” said PR Director Public Relations Imtiaz Rizwi while talking to The Express Tribune.
The railways has got a loan of Rs6.1 billion through its ancillary, PR Advisory and Consultancy Services (PRACS), which will be spent on the rehabilitation of 96 locomotives. Besides, tenders for purchase of 75 locomotives are also in process.
“If we start executing these two projects today, we will be able to see some locomotives after a year,” he said.
For this one-year gap, the railways tried to take 50 locomotives on lease from China, but the deal could not go through as Beijing demanded an unbearable cost of $2,600 per locomotive per day, Rizwi said.
The state of cash-strapped PR has once again gone from bad to worse with the locomotives’ strength dropping to around 100. For passenger and express trains, only 90 locomotives are on track and for freight operation only seven locomotives are available, which are nowhere near the demand from both areas, say railway officials.
The number of passenger and express trains, which were more than 400 before the crisis, has dropped below 200, which are being managed with only 90 locomotives. On the other hand, the number of locomotives for freight trains, which were originally around 90 for handling 60 freight trains, has fallen to only 7.
According to the officials, not a single locomotive has been fully revamped and is running with all six traction motors. Most of the locomotives have three or four traction motors, which is the main cause of engine failure during journey.
This has led to hours of delay in arrival and departure of trains and overcrowded platforms. These days, the express trains get late by more than 10 hours in many cases as locomotives, which push the trains, develop faults quite often with no alternative available.
Commenting on frequent delays, Rizwi pointed to the small freight operations. Previously, he said, some 50 to 60 freight trains were on their way on different tracks every time, and the management, in case of failure of any passenger train locomotive, brought the locomotive of a nearby freight train to be attached with the passenger train.
He ruled out any fuel shortage, saying the railway utilised only half of the credit line of Rs2 billion provided by Pakistan State Oil.
This year, expenses of the railways are estimated at Rs45 billion, which are three times the targeted earnings of Rs15 billion. During this financial crunch, the government provides salaries and pensions for railway employees every month.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2012.