IN a recent blow to rail operations, the Pakistan Railways has permanently shut down 45 trains while the remaining are struggling with over 15 hours of delay.
The department has termed rapidly depleting locomotives the chief cause for the permanent closure of the trains operation and said the situation could be worse.
On Saturday, Allama Iqbal, Shalimar and every train was at least six hours behind schedule. Passengers and their relatives, who were put through the torture of bearing delays for hours, staged a protest demonstration at the Lahore railway station against the PR managements’ gross failure.
The current situation has also exposed the true reason behind PR’s recent suspension of 20 passenger trains. The department had reasoned that they were looking to avoid any damage to trains at the hands of power protesters whereas the real reason was that it was masking its incapacity to operate the trains at all.
The agony of the passengers and their relatives was multiplied by the poor communication system as they were not able to tell for sure how late the trains would be. Considering the poor state of facilities and scarce seating at the Lahore railway station, it’s a challenge for anyone to wait for even an hour.
The platforms were full of people, frustrated and disowned by the PR as not even a single railway official bothered to visit aggrieved people. Even after they started protesting and the protests were aired by all media channels, the apathy of PR officials did not end.
The most disturbing fact is that the current predicament is not a momentary state of affairs. The department is not only short of locomotives but also spares and resources which could fix the problems. Despite repeated promises of speedy locomotive rehabilitation programmes by the railways minister, the chairman and the GM Operations, nothing has materialised. Shortage of locomotives, however, is not the only problem contributing to PR’s peril. Fuel reserves of the mammoth national organisation have all but hit the bottom. Throughout the last couple of months, it has been struggling to manage its fuel supplies which cause disruption in rail operations resulting in massive delays. More bad news for PR is that its private partnerships are struggling. The Business Express owes millions of rupees to it while the Shalimar Express has already hit by delays for hours.