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November 24, 2018

Pakistan Railways in 100 days: 10 new trains, 16 deaths


November 24, 2018

LAHORE: While Pakistan Railways is busy crediting its minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed with the introduction of 10 new passenger trains during the first 100 days of the government, public safety seems to have been put on the backburner as at least 16 people have lost their lives

during this period in train related accidents.

This is besides derailment of two trains, including one passenger train, which resulted in injuries to nearly two dozen people. The most recent unfortunate incident which resulted in crushing of four youths by a train took place on the night of November 20 (Tuesday) in Multan. They were allegedly sitting on the railway track when crushed by the train.

Last month, October 19, three boys, including two brothers, were crushed to death by a train in Shams Colony, Islamabad. Khushhal Khan Khattak Express was derailed twice first on September 16 and then on September 27. However, no loss of human lives was reported, dozens were injured in the first derailment incident.

However, the deadliest incident since Sh Rashid sworn in as minister for Railways in August this year took place in Kandhkot, District Kashmore, in which nine people, including women and children, lost their lives on October 16. It was wisely reported that all the victims were members of one family. Peshawar-bound Khushhal Khan Khattak Express had hit a motorcycle rickshaw carrying the family at an unmanned level crossing. The loss of human life is certainly unfortunate and such incidents need to be properly investigated to save precious human lives.

It is pertinent to mention here that last year Imran Khan, when he was not in power, had visited Lodhran the next day when eight persons, including six schoolchildren, had lost their lives in a train accident on January 6, 2017. Speaking to media after extending condolences with the families of the victims, the PTI chief had also demanded resignation of then PML-N Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique.

As per the latest available Pakistan Railways Year Book 2016-17, there are over 2,000 unmanned level crossings on the railways route across the country. As per the document only 17 unmanned level crossings were upgraded into manned level crossing during 2016-2017. Sources in the Pakistan Railways said not even a single unmanned level crossings has been upgraded to a manned crossings in the first 100 days of the incumbent government.

The News could not reach Sheikh Rashid Ahmed despite repeated attempts. However, MNA Farrukh Habib, Parliamentary Secretary for Railways, talking to The News said manning the unmanned railway crossings was responsibility of the provincial governments since the crossings were opened on the request of the governments. He added these crossings were not owned by the railways.

Farrukh Habib said Pakistan Railways had a huge operation comprising tracks of thousands of miles across the country and had many challenges primarily related to finances. He said there was need to ascertain the causes of accidents on tracks and take measures accordingly. He also said nothing was invested on the railways tracks in the past.

About the new trains, the parliamentary secretary said new trains were started after feasibility studies. He said there was a probationary period of three months for any new train to ascertain whether these were meeting the cost related to operation or not. “We don’t aim income from such passenger trains but these should at least cover the cost incurred on their operations,” he added.

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