LAHORE: After a lapse of seven years or so, the Pakistan Railways (PR) has resumed its cargo express train between Faisalabad and Karachi.

The daily earnings of the 503-Up/504-Down Cargo Express, currently comprising 16 bogies – nine from Faisalabad and seven from Multan — has been Rs2 million, an official of the PR commercial wing told Dawn on Monday.

Simultaneously leaving Faisalabad and Karachi at 11pm to reach its destinations at 3am the next day [28 hours], the train has also been collecting cargo from Shorkot, Khanewal, Sammasatta, Khanpur, Rohri, Tando Adam and Kotri.

Railways has been earning Rs105,000 per bogie from Faisalabad and Rs91,000 per bogie per round trip from Multan since the re-launch of the cargo express on Dec 12.

“A bogie is an eight-wheel carriage having the capacity of 60 tons. From Faisalabad to Karachi and back is a round trip,” said the officer.

The operation of the 27-bogie train was suspended in March 2010 due to shortage of locomotives. “It was then a 27-bogie train. But now it might be a 20-bogie train because of decline in cargo from Faisalabad. A number of production units, especially in the textile sector, have been closed down during the last couple of years primarily due to energy cost and its shortage. The railways administration would invite tenders for the remaining bogies next month,” said the official who sought anonymity.

Freight service is the major source of income for railways worldwide and the Pakistan Railways used to earn at least Rs6bn annually from the operation of eight to 10 freight trains from Karachi for various upcountry destinations daily.

However, shortage of locomotives in May 2011 had forced the railways administration to suspend all the cargo trains from Karachi. Suspension of passenger trains and availability of locomotives resulted in restoration of freight service of four trains daily in December the same year.

The freight service witnessed several ups and downs primarily due to locomotives shortage and the number of freight trains leaving Karachi remained one or two daily.

After a decade or so, a total of 16 freight trains left Karachi for various upcountry destinations on Aug 14 this year, heralding revival of the much-neglected Pakistan Railways.

Railways got a boost as five freight trains left Karachi for upcountry destinations in December 2013.

Published in Dawn, December 19th, 2017

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