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LAHORE: Feasibility studies for new rail routes are being planned while Rs820 billion PC-I of the Karachi-Khyber Pakhtunkhwa part of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been sent to the Planning Commission, says Pakistan Railways Chief Executive Officer Javed Anwar.

“We are looking for sponsors for the Muzaffarabad-Murree-Islamabad rail link as its feasibility study is being done at present,” Mr Anwar said during an informal meeting on Monday.

The process for conducting feasibility study of Quetta-Zhob-Dera Ismael Khan would be initiated next month. “After completion, the route will enable people to reach DI Khan from Quetta and vice versa in eight hours or so, while at present it requires at least 40 hours,” he said.

A freight train has to be cut in three parts to haul it between Sibbi and Quetta, while maximum speed for a train on Quetta-Zahidan track has been between 20 to 30 kilometres per hour. Work on the both routes would soon be initiated, the CEO said.

The route of Musa Pak Express would be extended up to Rawalpindi and Samasatta after being upgraded probably from April 15. More inter-city passenger trains would also be upgraded gradually. Railways would launch a new route or restore a train service, keeping in view its feasibility, he said.

To a question, Mr Anwar said that decrease in the price of POL products had minimal impact on railways’ operational cost. “Still rail fares are less than those of road transport, especially for long-distance journey. Fuel or diesel consumed in rail operation constitutes 19 per cent of the total operational cost,” he said, arguing that that was why rail fares were not revised when oil prices decreased.

Regarding the measures taken in the wake of Gulshan-i-Iqbal suicide blast

in Lahore, Mr Anwar said fences were being erected around big station yards, besides establishment of check posts at entry and exit points at railway installations, while CCTV cameras were also being installed. These measures, he hoped, would also help prevent theft of railway material from the station yards.

Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2016