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Monday July 22, 2024

Pay, pensions, fuel consume 95pc Railways budget, Senate panel told

Pakistan Railways was currently moving towards self-reliance by increasing its market share from 8% to 30%the financial constraints were impeding progress

By Asim Yasin
July 11, 2024
Policemen walk along trains stationed on a deserted platform at railway station. — AFP/File
Policemen walk along trains stationed on a deserted platform at railway station. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Railways Wednesday informed the Senate Committee on Railways that out of the total budget, around 95% was spent on pay, pensions, and fuel, leaving only 5% for maintenance and for the Financial Year 2024-25.

The liabilities related to pensions amount to around Rs62 billion.

The committee met here with Senator Saifullah Sarwar Khan Nyazee in the chair.

Secretary Railways Syed Mazhar Ali Shah briefed the committee on the operations and performance of the ministry.

Mazhar highlighted that railways were 62% safer and 72% more environment-friendly than roads and could contribute economically by lowering the cost of the oil import bill.

Unfortunately, despite having all the potential, the first transport policy in Pakistan was only formulated in 2018, with the aim of providing safe, affordable, efficient, durable, and environmentally friendly means of transport.

He told the committee that the Pakistan Railways was currently moving towards self-reliance by increasing its market share from 8% to 30%; however, the financial constraints were impeding progress.

He emphasized that the department had undertaken some measures to minimize operational costs and also requested the federal government to include railway pensioners in the national account.

He told the committee that the Ecnec had approved the ML-1 upgradation project at a cost of around $6.68 billion.

In the first phase, the railway track from Karachi to Multan would be upgraded, followed by Multan to Peshawar track.

The committee decided to hold an exclusive session on the ML-1 project.

The secretary railways said the department was committed to moving towards public-private partnerships and was planning to introduce four smart railway cars for routes between Lahore-Islamabad, Lahore-Faisalabad, Lahore-Multan, and Karachi-Hyderabad at a cost of around $45 million.

Under this public-private partnership, private parties will contribute a small portion of the profit for maintaining the tracks.

Senator Kamil Ali Agha highlighted the existence of a double electric line between Lahore and Lodhran.

The secretary railways informed the committee that while a double electric line did exist, it had unfortunately been dismantled.

The committee decided to visit Islamabad and Lahore railway workshops to examine their performance.

The Committee recommended that when making plans for the future, it was important to consider the impacts of climate change.

The committee directed that priority should be given to the expansion of rail network to enhance regional connectivity and maximize financial benefits.

The committee recommended that a think-tank be created to strategize future projects, taking into consideration future trends and climate changes. A report should be presented to the Committee at the next meeting.