Hundreds of passengers are found at railways stations across the country waiting for several hours for trains to come and yet they return disappointed. The fact that 26 trains did not depart only on Thursday speaks of how grave is the crisis in once a profitable organization till 1976-77. Resultantly, road transport is fast replacing trains for short distance journeys but the people who have to travel far are a real loss. The immediate cause is defective locomotives which invariably go out of order midway the journey and drivers struck the job seeking for new traction motors to be fitted. This row was resolved on the management's commitment that locos will be refurbished in two months. But the time the Pakistan Railway commitment is honoured train journey will continue to suffer.
over the world have both a commercial and a social function — that of
linking isolated areas suffering from neglect. It was one of the
greatest communication revolutions in mankind’s history, which brought
isolated communities into the mainstream. PR, on the other hand, seems
on the way to reversing this historic legacy due to mismanagement. Only
200 out of the 500 locomotives of PR are operational. There is no fuel
available to run many trains because of non-payment. That issue will be
resolved now that the government has decided to increase the line of
credit from the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) to Rs 2 billion in order to
ensure a smooth and uninterrupted supply of oil. The correct approach is
to make a three-tier plan: immediate, medium-term and long-term.
the Railways Ministry needs to deal with improving the tracks and
rolling stock. These are management and administrative issues, and
eminently doable. As far as locomotives are concerned, they should
assess which ones are still functional. The non-functional ones can be
cannibalised for repairing others. In the medium term, new locomotives
should be bought but it should be kept in mind that in the past, Chinese
locomotives have created some problems so quality must be ensured.
American locomotives are more expensive but have a longer life. We
should not try to find shortcuts in this regard. We need to buy as many
locomotives as possible to get the railways rolling again. In the long
run, we have to become self-reliant through manufacturing capabilities.
The Mughalpura Railway Workshops should be revamped to restore repair
capability and incrementally move to developing manufacturing
locomotives and carriages, etc. This will save a great deal of foreign
exchange in the future. The maintenance culture of PR also needs to be
Railways are the cheapest, safest and most convenient
form of transport service available to mankind. Road transport is not
convenient, especially for long journeys, and also puts greater pressure
on our roads, leading to more expenditure on road maintenance.
Privatising railways is not an option as the private sector is motivated
only by profit and will end up chopping all non-profit making railway
lines. We cannot allow that to happen. Freight transport through
railways was a money-making venture, but PR has fallen into such a pit
of inefficiency that now more freight is carried through roads. We must
make a thorough, well thought through plan and implement it efficiently.
We can learn from the Indian Railways and see what they have done right
and where we went wrong.