ISLAMABAD, July 19: Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour told a Senate Committee on Thursday that the finance ministry was largely responsible for the crisis Pakistan Railways was facing.
Taking part in deliberations of the committee on railways, Mr Bilour was loud and clear in submitting that decisions taken by the cabinet to release funds to the department were being sabotaged by the finance ministry.
He said that former finance secretary Waqar Masood Khan virtually pushed the railways beyond recovery. All the funds approved by the cabinet during the past four years were withheld by Mr Khan and not a singly penny was released.
The minister blamed highways for the poor performance of Railways and said the construction of motorways had caused a loss of billions of rupees.
During previous governments, 80 per cent of the funds were used to build roads, while only 20 per cent were spent on development of railways.
The situation would have been different today had the previous governments paid attention to railways as well as to roads. In India, he said, there were no motorways whereas its railways system was the best in the world.
He said that in India a railway station handled on average 1,200 trains, but in Pakistan the finance ministry did not release even approved funds.
Railways Secretary Arif Azeem painted a bleak picture of the Railways’ future and said its telecommunication system had become obsolete and buildings of railway stations and other structures had lost utility.
He said that present conditions of Railways tended to show the era of pre-1970s.
Mr Azeem said the government had approved Rs35 billion for Railways to improve the rolling stock situation.
The funds will be utilised to repair 96 locomotives and purchase of 150 new locomotives.
These 240 locomotives will be added to the railways network during the next 14 months.
According to him, Pakistan Railways has a total of 73 power vans, out of which 46, are out of order.
Committee members criticised the performance of Railways and termed the journey by rail ‘a journey full of horrors’.
They said that the committee members and the minister for railways should travel by train to observe how passengers faced difficulties.