Once a sinking concern, now coming back on the track.
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Sep 08 - 14 , 2003
Pakistan Railways, which once a liability over the exchequer due to its heavy losses forcing the previous governments to get rid of this sick public sector entity, has now taken a turnaround reflected in the tremendous growth of revenues to the tune of Rs14.40 billion at the end of June this year.
Despite having tremendous potential for the revenue growth due to increasing traffic, the inefficient management, corruption and excessive politicization altogether have turned this organization as a sick unit. Besides the corruption, the overstaffing was another factor which was eating the resources of the Pakistan Railways. In order to overcome the problem of overstaff, the governments in the past introduced various schemes of rightsizing and a large number of employees had accepted the voluntary retirement offers of the management.It is, however, the efficiency and the financial discipline of the present management which have make things much brighter in Pakistan Railways.
Disappointed by the poor services offered by the Railways, most of the traffic between Karachi and the up-country had started travelling by road which encouraged the coach operators at a large scale for almost all the routes to the interior of Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab and even to the NWFP.
Realizing the potential for growth both on revenue passengers and the domestic cargo, the present management has taken various initiatives to improve the services, increase the frequency of the trains in all directions and acceleration of the speed. The latest induction of 'Karakorum Express' is one of the good examples of improvement in the Pakistan Railways.
Credit also goes to the friendly country of China, which has come in a big way to help Pakistan in its programs for economic revival. China is actively involve in building up our resources in power sector especially coal fired power generation, development of the port of Gwadar, construction of highways and the Pakistan Railways.
Under the assistance program from China, Pakistan Railways have entered into an agreement with China for purchasing 69 Chinese locomotives out of which 8 have already been handed over to the Railway management. Currently, Pakistan Railways was in a dire need of coaches, wagons, locomotives, and the signaling systems.
Ghous Bux Mahar, Federal Minister for Railways while paying glowing tributes to the assistance extended by friendly country China, said that China came to our rescue when no one was ready to grant loans for Pakistan Railways. Besides providing locomotives to the Pakistan Railways, it also facilitated loan by the China EXIM Bank for the purchase of engines and coaches.
The Chinese locomotives are as good as German or Japanese but cheaper than any other locomotive in the world. China is supplying these locomotives after an international tender, a contract for procurement and manufacture of 69 locomotives. The agreement for supply of 44 locomotives of 3500 Horsepower and 25 of 25oo Horsepower was signed with China in 2001.
The procurement of these 69 locomotives at a cost of $96 million is extremely a cheaper transaction. Pakistan Railways is also importing 174 passenger coaches, out of which 40 have already delivered and are in operation between Karachi-Lahore and Karachi-Quetta routes.Pakistan Railways has also undertaken task for improvement of the track and rails at a cost of $23 million have been purchased from China. Pakistan Railways have also signed two more agreements with China for modernization of the system.
Pakistan Railways earnings during the financial year 2002-03 amounted to Rs14.44 billion as compared to Rs13.04 billion in the corresponding period last year. The improvement in the financial health of Pakistan Railways is reflected in the fact that its revenues which were at Rs8.8 billion in 1998 have now taken a quantum jump to the tune of Rs14.40 billion till the first half of the current year.
The tremendous improvement in revenue generation was the result of effective financial management and strict control on unnecessary expenditures.In order to attract passenger as well as cargo traffic, the management of Pakistan Railways has decided to further improve its customer services. In this regard, an agreement has been signed between Pakistan and China on up-grading railways goods services. A Chinese company will be providing 1300 freight coaches to Pakistan Railways. Out of 1300 coaches, 420 will be manufactured in China, while remaining 880 coaches will be produced at Lahore Moghalpura Railways workshop in the next two years.
Under a rehabilitation program, over 450 passenger coaches will be refurbished at a cost of Rs2.14 billion. This rehabilitation program includes conversion of 40 coaches into air-conditioned coaches, conversion of 10 power vans and provision of 100 new high-speed bogies. Besides this, 175 new design passenger coaches are also being purchased from China.
The railways network in Pakistan is likely to take a new turn with the development a new port city of Gwadar. The economic activity generated by the new port city may provide tremendous opportunities to the Railways to enhance its revenues in near future.