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Re-structuring the railways

  1. Increasing cotton production
  2. Re-structuring the Railways

Making the Pakistan Railways as an efficient system of transportation

Jul 10 - 16, 2000

An ambitious plan of action to restructure the Pakistan Railways has been prepared aimed to restore its prestige and reputation of a comfortable and efficient mode of travelling and transportation of goods at a comparatively much lower cost and at the same time converting the loosing organization into a profitable venture within a period of about 5 years.

The programme includes dualisation of 880 KM track ensuring double track from Peshawar to Karachi, purchase of new locomotive and renovation of existing stocks, introducing fast passenger and goods trains and improving in operating standard. The necessary finance will be jointly arranged by the government, Railways' own resources and foreign assistance and loans. Railways has been authorised to sell huge areas of land owned by it or construct commercial plazas in partnership with private sector on its prized land scattered all over the country.

Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf who presided over a meeting on Railway affairs in Lahore pledged to restore the Pakistan Railways as an efficient system of transportation in the country and said that it can achieve its old standard of efficiency and discipline by reorientation, modifications and planning to bring it on par with other modern railway systems in the world. The Chief Executive said at the briefing on the plight of the Pakistan Railways that almost all departments of national importance had been drifted towards collapse due to negligence. Stating that he could see a silver lining, Gen. Pervez Musharraf said improvements are there and more are needed to turn the railways into a viable, efficient, safe and comfortable mode of transportation system. He directed that all necessary steps should be taken for making railways a modern and comfortable travelling service for the common man. Chief Executive announced a Rs. 44 billion special package to revive the railways. Addressing Pakistan officers at the Pakistan Railways (PR) headquarters, the CE said Rs.4 billion would be released to the railways on emergency basis to improve its sets and performance. A sum of Rs. 40 billion had been approved in principal for the completion of long-term projects to be released to the PR in phases.

The meeting also decided to shelve the idea of total privatization of Pakistan Railways. It was decided that Pakistan Railways would follow Swedish railway model in which all infrastructure is property of the state while for passenger and freight business — a mix of public and private sector participations. It was felt that total privatization of Pakistan Railways is neither feasible nor it can be worked out. "A blend of the public and private participation was found to be most suitable for Pakistan under the given circumstances.

In persuance of the policy decisions taken at the meeting the railway have initiated a number of measure to achieve the desired targets. It has moved a summary to the Chief Executive Secretariat for dualisation of 880-kilometre track with an estimated cost of Rs.35.3 billion. The summary has been completed in three months time by involving experts from the Railways department, an official at the Railways Ministry told this correspondent.

The track from Karachi to Lodhran (843-kilometre) is already dualised while the remaining lane from Lodhran to Peshawar (843-kilometre) will be dualised in two phases during the next 5/6 years.

He was of the firm view that the double track will give a big boost to the organisation's performance and bring it at par with road transport in terms of time factor. In the first phase, he explained, rail-track from Lodhran to Lalamusa (550-kilometre) will be dualised and in the second phase lane from Lalamusa to Peshawar (330-kilometre) will be doubled. The cost will be Rs.28 billion and Rs.7.3 billion respectively. The official said the cost of the project could be substantially reduced if army is involved in the project.

Secretary Railways Lt. Gen. (Rtd) Javed Ashraf is in Ukraine, these days to explore the possibility of Ukraine's cooperation in Pakistan Railways' two-year emergency repair plan and five-year rehabilitation plan. In the meantime, a technical team led by Maintenance and Services General Manager Maj. General Butt (Retd) is leaving for China next week on a similar mission.

Following the imposition of sanctions by the G-8 countries, Pakistan Railways maintenance and repair works went by default resulting in deterioration of services for which no assistance was coming from those countries which had assisted in setting up locomotive factory and carriage factory.

However, China and Ukraine offered their assistance in carrying out the nearly Rs.45 billion Railway rehabilitation programmes. Preliminary discussions with both the countries have taken place by the Railways authorities and the visits of the Pakistani officials will bring forward the prospects of mutual cooperation.

Sources informed PAGE that the Railways secretary would examine the facilities Ukraine could offer to meet Pakistan Railways needs in respect of the emergency plan and rehabilitation programme. During his visit, he would also study the compatibility of the railway system with the Pakistan Railways. The sources further said the technical mission going to China would undertake the same exercise but with more insight into the railway systems. The technical system would study the railway system including locomotives, coaches, wagons, signaling, telecommunication facilities and operational system and hold discussions with the Chinese authorities and Chinese bank in regard to funding of the programme.

By the time the technical team returns from China, Railway secretary would have returned from Ukraine. In the light of the discussions with Ukraine authorities, the technical team would go to Ukraine for examining the compatibility of the two railway systems and how Ukraine could cooperate with Pakistan in this field.

During Pakistan-China ministerial talks, the secretary had sought Chinese cooperation in regard to Railways rehabilitation plans. Later the representative of the Chinese from Dong Fang Corporation visited Pakistan and invited Pakistanis to visit their installations.

The emergency plan costing Rs.4 billion envisages nine projects, which include: Rehabilitation and improvement of track on Pakistan Railways (emergency Investment Plan 1999-2000 to 2000-2001).

Modification of redundant 320 tank wagons and provision of essential assemblies, for 680 freight wagons and other tools and equipment for maintenance of freight wagons.

Re-commissioning of 60 diesel electric locomotives.

Replacement of U-style block instrument on Lahore-Khanewal section.

Improving telecommunication facilities on Pakistan railways.

Replacement of breakdown cranes and procurement of relief train.

Procurement/rehabilitation of plant and machinery for C&W shops.

Fitment of air-brakes to 574 freight wagons.

The Rs. 40.7 billion five-year rehabilitation programme comprises the following projects.

Procurement of 69 diesel locomotives of 2000/3000 H.P.

Rehabilitation of 36 GMU-30 diesel locomotives.

Replacement of 29 electric locomotives.

Rehabilitation of 450 passenger coaches.

Procurement/manufacture of 175 passenger coaches including transfer of technology.

Conversion of 100 economy/second class coaches into lower AC.

Manufacture of 50 bogies including transfer of technology.

Procurement/manufacture of 220 high capacity wagons.

Rehabilitation of track.

Doubling of track.

Electric works(replacement of power supply system catenary wire sub-station equipment and electrical wiring).

Improvement of telecommunication facilities.

Rehabilitation and improvement of signaling works.

In the meanwhile through internal tightening of control and improving operational efficiency the new railways management has succeeded in curtailing its operational losses from over Rs. 5 billion to Rs. one billion annually ad they hope to make it break even the next financial year. The General Manager Railways in a press interview said that goods carriage capacity has been significantly improved.- Previously it was under utilised.