RE - Federal Minister for Railways Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour has said that a godown-to-godown freight train is being worked out to facilitate the business community and it would be plying as soon as the modalities to this regard are finalised.
The Federal Minister was speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Tuesday. LCCI President Zafar Iqbal Chaudhry, Senior Vice President Ijaz A Mumtaz, Vice President SAARC Chamber of Commerce Iftikhar Ali Malik, former Senior Vice President Abdul Basit and newly appointed General Manager Railways Ishfaq Khattak also spoke on the occasion. The Federal Minister said that godown-to-godown Freight Train (from Railway godown to customers godown) was being worked out on the demand of the business community and to promote train culture in the country.
He said that all the possible measures were being taken to give a timetable of freight trains to its customers and once the timetable is finalized it would be implemented at all costs. All trains will reach the destination at the scheduled time and Railways would compensate the businessmen who would suffer because of any delay of the freight train.
He said that Pakistan Railways would soon be starting 24-hour freight service as a number of businesses were suffering only because of absence of this service.
The Minister, who spent well over two hours at the Lahore Chamber f Commerce and Industry and gave a patient hearing to all the issues raised by LCCI members, said that Pakistan Railways have purchased 75 new locomotives from China to overcome the shortage as Railways need 410 locomotives daily and as soon as the new locomotives arrive, the situation would improve considerably.
The Federal Minister said that authorities at Pakistan Railways were well aware of the problems and they were taking practical steps to overcome these issues. The Federal Minister said that Pakistan Railways needs investment to exploit its full potential and make it an efficient and profitable organization for the prosperity of the country.
He maintained that, unfortunately the Ministry is facing different problems, particularly lack of funds to improve the railway system. The Minister said Pakistan Railways was operating on aging engines and these need repair or replacement adding the existing outdated tracks also need to be doubled to make railway journey more safe. He said, If we start by improving 30 engines, we can improve the system. Bilour said in 1992 the Railway ministry exported 300 wagons to Bangladesh and now we are importing them. He said that once the railway was well-established department in the country but today it is facing a lot of challenges. LCCI President Zafar Iqbal Chaudhry said that the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry was working on three projects including Model Freight Train, Model Passenger Train and a new Dryport. He said that presentations to this regard have been prepared that would be presented to the concerned authorities very soon.
The LCCI President said that Pakistan Railways forms the lifeline of the country by catering to its needs for large-scale movement of freight as well as passenger traffic. It is a major source of transportation for wheat, coal, fertilizer, rock, phosphate, cement, container traffic and sugar. Being the most effective transport system it plays a vital role in generating development opportunities. Railways has a definite and unmatchable edge over road for long and bulk haulage and mass scale traffic volume being safe, pollution free, environment friendly and most economical as compared to any other mode of transportation.
The LCCI President hoped that the Lahore Chamber would get a final government approval for Sheikhupura Dry Port Trust in shortest possible time, as among the biggest hurdles in the speedy movement of freight is the unavailability of schedule of trains.
Talking about freight delays, he said that in the past the timing of train was limited up to 48 hours but now it had been extended to six to seven days and there is a dire need to consign to a fixed time of delivery once complete documents are handed over by the importer/exporter at any Dry Port on the Pakistan Railway network.
Zafar Chaudhry said that the national economy was expected to grow next year and to sustain this growth rate for the next few years, it is imperative that the Railways should be made more effective and efficient.