PR finalising priorities as funds likely to be released shortly
MABAD (APP) - Following a bailout package of Rs 1.1 billion announced by the federal government, the crisis-hit Pakistan Railways was finalising its priorities including maintenance of 145 locomotives and rehabilitation of rail tracks and coaches.
A meeting in this regard would be held by mid-January between Minister for Railways and Minister for Finance in which the former would brief the latter about projects to be executed after release of funds.
We have planed to spend Rs 6.1 billion on maintenance of 145 locomotives, Rs 2 billion each on rehabilitation of tracks and coaches while Rs one billion would be reserved for future use, Minister for Railways Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour told APP.
After their maintenance, 75 percent of locomotives would be used for freight carrying and the rest would be used for passenger coaches.
According to the estimates, a locomotive of 3000 horse power generates up to Rs 60 million per annum against Rs 50.5 million by the one with 2000 horse power.
He said for maintenance purpose, the spare parts would be imported and 10 to 12 locomotives would be repaired each month hoping that it would help a lot to minimize losses of this public entity.
Bilour was of the view that freight coach service bears the expenditures and brings in profit and the passenger coaches usually suffer losses.
Presently not more than ten freight coaches are plying from Karachi and around 80 freight coaches are lying idle in Karachi but there is no locomotive to move them to destinations. From independence era till '80s, almost 92 percent of cargo was being handled by freight coaches and rest 8 percent by other transport but now the situation has turned vice-versa, said the railway minister.
He said undue backing to National Logistics Cell at the cost of Pakistan Railways deteriorated the situation, exemplifying the laws across the world where a cargo truck is disallowed to move from one district to the other but in case of Pakistan, a single truck roams around the whole country. The railways minister said that they had planned to purchase 150 locomotives from US and 75 from China but both of the deals have been stayed by court, requesting the court to vacate stay order to help steer national asset out of crisis. If the court vacates stay order, it would take another two years for execution of the deal, said Bilour adding the ministry has already paid the down payment to Chinese company.
The railways minister said the federal cabinet has also empowered the ministry to increase fares in proportion to surge of oil prices in international market without prior approval of the federal cabinet.
To a question, the minister said he has never been in support of closing down trains until its revenue decrease to 20 percent of the expenditures.
He also opposed the privatization of Pakistan Railways due to the reasons that it was running in deficit and no investor would be interested to invest capital in such entity.
However, he said the ministry is striving to engage the foreign investors into joint ventures to minimize losses of railways and make it a profitable entity.