LAHORE: Pakistan Railways has planned rehabilitation of 60 weak bridges at an estimated cost of Rs175 million in the current financial year in an attempt to ensure safe journey and avoid any untoward incident.
This is part of a broader rehabilitation and strengthening programme for 159 dilapidated bridges identified by the management for immediate repair and maintenance following an incident when Ran Pathani Bridge collapsed, an official said requesting anonymity.
Ran Pathani Bridge collapsed in October 2006, suspending rail services between Hyderabad and Karachi for five days. Besides disturbing travel plans of passengers, it also caused a loss of over Rs1 billion to the public purse, disrupting transportation of goods within the country, exports, imports and Afghan transit trade, the official said.
After this incident, Pakistan Railways constituted a committee, headed by the federal government inspector of railways with the task to review the condition of all bridges and making recommendations for repair and maintenance.
In the review process, 159 railway bridges were identified and marked “in acute distress”, requiring immediate repair and maintenance for rehabilitation. There were a total of 13,841 railway bridges, most of which were constructed from 1886 to 1900.
In December 2007, the Central Development Working Party, accepting the demand of the Ministry of Railways, approved Rs412 million for the repair and rehabilitation work on the 159 bridges with directives that work should commence in April 2008 and be completed in three years.
By the end of financial year 2011-12, 28 bridges had been repaired costing Rs102 million and the management set the target of rehabilitating 60 more in the current financial year.
“Eight bridges have been repaired completely since June this year. Work is in progress on seven bridges and tenders are in the pipeline for six more,” said Muhammad Aslam Gondal, Project Director Bridge Rehabilitation of Pakistan Railways. “We are optimistic that the target will be achieved.”
Two more train services soon
The Lahore-Karachi double track would be completed by March next year and two more trains in public-private partnership would be started soon, said Junaid Qureshi, General Manager Operations of Pakistan Railways.
Speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thursday, Qureshi said not a single locomotive had been added to the fleet since 2008 – a major hurdle in the way of revival of the railways.
He offered railway tracks to the private sector if the investors wanted to run their own locomotives and said a track access policy was likely to be finalised soon as a meeting in this connection would be held today (Friday).
Qureshi expressed the hope that the railways was fast heading towards revival as a number of steps were being taken to turn it into a profitable institution. This year, the railways earned Rs650 million more than what it earned last year.
However, he pointed out that fuel and utility bills were eating up a bigger portion of government funds provided to the railways. Since 1995, he claimed, fuel prices had surged 800%, but the railways increased freight rates by only 105% and passenger fares by 70%.
With additional input from our reporter Shahram Haq
Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2012.
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