Rail Revival

Much like the PIA, Pakistan Railways is one of our highest loss-incurring state-owned enterprises and is showing very little signs of improvement on an annual basis. Unfortunately, our infrastructure is simply failing to keep up with the expected standards of safety and quality that railways are supposed to have in this day and age.

The spate of derailments during Eid this year, including the most recent Quetta-bound cargo train’s derailment, highlights how urgently we need investment and infrastructural renovations in a public mode of transport that so many rely upon.

Financial constraints have forced Pakistan Railways to cling to extremely old locomotives, some more than 50 years old. These trains have well surpassed their operational lifespan of 25 years, and the enterprise no longer has the administrative freedom or the funds to procure new locomotives. However, this does not excuse our continued use of these trains despite the obvious safety risks they pose.

Neglecting railway infrastructure is a surefire way to lose lives in an instant and sign up for high maintenance and repair costs that cannot be afforded to begin with. Last year’s derailment of the Hazara Express killed over 30 individuals and is a constant reminder of the consequences of neglect going unchecked. Right now public trust in railways is at an all-time low, and the need for public transport is at an all-time high due to rising fuel costs. The ceiling for this mode of transport has always been high, and our railways being incapable of generating revenue is simply false. In the past 9 months, Pakistan Railways has increased its annual revenue to its highest peak of Rs. 66 billion.

If everything is in check, railways are the safest and cheapest mode of transport in the country. The only reason our citizens have become so reliant on buses is because of people’s lack of confidence in the reliability of our present railway system. Similarly, if businesses can rely on trains to carry cargo, it will provide a ton of relief from the exorbitant rates that truck owners charge for transporting goods.

Efforts for reformation are not impossible. Saad Rafique’s tenure as Federal Minister saw multiple initiatives aimed at reviving the railway in order to bring about an increase in revenue. Even though they were not entirely successful, modernising our railways again may allow them to become a symbol of efficiency once again.

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