Thursday December 01, 2022

Railways will take 20 years to overcome flood losses: minister

October 05, 2022

LAHORE: Federal Minister for Railways Khwaja Saad Rafiq has said that the recent floods had caused the railways losses of at least Rs525 billion, and rising prices of dollar and oil compounded the difficulties, forcing the administration to increase the train fares.

“I appeal to the Supreme Court to review its judgment to allow the railways to use its lands for long- and short-term businesses to increase the income and combat the impending huge losses,” he said while addressing a press conference at the railways headquarters on Tuesday.

“Despite the bad situation, we have restarted our operations with available resources and the Quetta-Taftan section has become operational,” he added. He said the Imran Khan government left the railways with a loss of Rs47.5 billion while their wrong polices multiplied the circular debt.

He said railways had a previous revenue generation of Rs60 billion, but due to the increased price of diesel and dollar, a loss ranging from 20 to 36 billion rupees would have to be borne additionally, and that was a big jolt. However, he said, administration was determined to cope with the losses to increase its income.

To a question, he said, it will take 20 years to fix the railways, adding: “I do not have Alladdin’s lamp to bring the department in order immediately.” He said the railways land had been digitalised in the light of Supreme Court order, which barred the railways from using its lands for commercial purposes, adding that the judgment was also a setback for the department. He mentioned that last year railways earned Rs2.7 billion which can be increased to Rs16-17 billion if the Supreme Court gives permission to use lands for business purposes. “I will request the Chief Justice to hear the case of railways on priority to provide us relief,” he added.

To a question, he said previously the private housing societies were easily allowed to build bridges, but now they have to deposit Rs100 million for getting permission. He told a questioner that railways fares in freight operations were lower than other transport facilities. To a query, he said that the number of railways employees was more than one hundred thousand while pensioners are 125,000.

He said in order to increase profits, more emphasis should be laid on business class instead of economy class. He told a questioner that ML-1 was a revolutionary project which was initially estimated to be operational at a cost of $6.2 billion in six years. But later the governments ignored it and by now the cost had reached up to $10 billion. He said that to reduce the operational time of ML-1, China needed to be convinced to start work, adding the prime minister was preparing to visit China for the purpose.

To a question, he requested the institutions not to make Pakistan an object of experiment, adding that policies of the country should be taken seriously in the best interests of the nation. He expressed concerns for security problems in Quetta, saying the army was being contacted for solving key problems. He said various optic fiber companies were approaching the railways to allow them to lay wires on rental basis, and the highest bidders would be awarded contract for optic fiber lines. He said a contract has been finalised with a company for undertaking an enterprise resource planning project.

To a question, he said running the Karachi Circular Railway was a big mistake, asking where do the railway departments run metro trains. He said the Sindh government was ready to take the burden of circular railway project.