Chronic financial crisis, lack of engines and persistent delays in the arrival of passenger trains have severely hampered the operations of Pakistan Railways (PR) Peshawar Division.
The department has been compelled to refund Rs2.3 million in fares to passengers in the last seven months. Data obtained from the divisional superintendent’s office further reveals that many passengers now prefer to travel by buses rather than railways since the service remains below standard.
In 2009, a total of 3.13 million passengers visited different parts of the country using the trains from Peshawar, earning the department Rs350.325 million. The following year, a total of 4.411 million passengers used the service, increasing revenue by Rs3.34 million.
By contrast, last year saw a dramatic decline; only around a million passengers used the service, bringing in no more than Rs260 million in revenue.
The department also faces a fuel shortage since it often fails to fulfil advance payments to Pakistan State Oil. The Peshawar Division consumes 16,000 litres of oil daily. Currently, it has four days worth of fuel stock left while authorities remain unsure whether a further supply would be released or not.
“We hardly fulfil our expenditure by the profit received from the tickets... we cannot buy oil from the local market with this amount. Trains carrying goods coming from Karachi were our main source of income, but they are suspended now. Till this is solved, the crisis will continue,” complained Commercial Inspector Muhammad Sadeeq.
He informed that currently 139 locomotives are lying dysfunctional at the Mianwali railway station after the government failed to repair them. Another 80 lay dead at Kundian shed due to the non-availability of spare parts.
Responding to a question about the delay in arrivals, he said all engines were old and stopped midway due to the hot weather. “We have to call for other engines from the main stations which results in delays,” he added.
“Apart from these trains which have been closed since last year, the Peshawar Division is currently running 25 locomotives against our requirement of 66,” he said.
The inspector further said that Pakistan Railways will run a special train from Peshawar to Lahore on August 18 at 12am. In 2009, that train carried 431 passengers which brought the department Rs120,680 in revenue by charging Rs280 per person. In 2010 and 2011, the train carried 406 and 304 passengers respectively. This year, the train will carry only 250 passengers with the fare increased to Rs330.
“To reduce fares in order to facilitate the general public, you have to write to the concerned ministry and they will refer it to the finance department. It takes a lot of time and we are not in a position to take that decision right now,” PR Public Relations Director Zubair Shafi Ghuri told The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2012.