Mini tourist train: Second-hand train a first-class flop

Published: February 11, 2013
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The civic agency had spent Rs35.65 million on the procurement of the second-hand Italian-made 35-seat train.

The civic agency had spent Rs35.65 million on the procurement of the second-hand Italian-made 35-seat train.

ISLAMABAD: It was on January 7, 2012 when residents of the capital saw the much-trumpeted mini-tourist train plying the roads of the city for the last time. Since then, it has been stationary due to some technical fault.

Parked at Lake View Park near Rawal Lake for the last 13 months, the Rs35.65 million tourist train is now only serving as an overpriced decoration.

The situation not only speaks volume about the efficiency of the city managers, but also the Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) sorry state of affairs.

The civic agency had spent Rs35.65 million on the procurement of the second-hand Italian-made 35-seat train. On July 30, 2011, the train was sent off for its first trip around the city. At that time, no one realised that the investment had been made for barely five months.

On January 7, 2012 the train began creating problems for the driver. Local motor mechanics were contacted to locate the fault and repair it, but no one could, in part due to the complicated hydroelectric system of the vehicle.

“The CDA contacted several well-known automobile workshops in the city. Several motor mechanics examined the engine, and some of them identified the fault, but spare parts were not available in the local market, which hindered any progress towards repairing the train,” CDA Spokesperson Ramzan Sajid said.

The Tourism Division, whose administrative control was later given to the CDA Environment Wing Directorate of municipal administration, had procured the mini-train with hopes of offering an avenue of entertainment for locals, especially tourists.

“It was not brand new, but a second-hand purchase. A guarantee for the engine and other parts was not submitted by the contractor,” an Environment Wing official said. At the time the train was launched, a comprehensive route was selected for it covering different city landmarks including Kashmir Highway, the National Monument, Faisal Mosque, Marghazar Zoo, Japanese Park, Saidpur Village and Fatima Jinnah Park.

The fare for adults was set at Rs200 and Rs150 for children up to 10-years-old. Special concessions were also given to the disabled, and fares were cut in half for the first month of service.

Problematic fix up

Sajid said that the CDA had recently sought tenders from interested firms to bring the train back to operational condition. He said firms have been asked to repair it using genuine injectors, filters, camshaft sensors, batteries and other necessary parts. The selected firm would be asked to provide at least four to five months guarantee of their work. Sajid said last date for submission of tender documents was February 7, while tenders would be opened on February 11 (today).

However, finding bidders proved to be a daunting task.

Nowhere to advertise

Sources in the Directorate of Municipal Administration informed that only two firms had submitted tender documents. The basic reason behind the poor response, the sources opined, is that the tender notice was only published on the CDA’s official website rather than in newspapers.

This was no accident, as advertising firms have stopped releasing the CDA’s ads and tender notices to newspapers after the outstanding dues owed to advertising firms associated with the civic body had crossed the agreed limit. The authority had no option but to post the tender notice on its website, where it may have failed to catch the eye of many firms capable of handling the job.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th, 2013.

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