ISLAMABAD: On the first day of taking charge of the ministry of railways, Sheikh Rashid Ahmad made a pledge on Monday to make the state-owned organisation deficit-free by Dec 30 by overcoming the annual deficit of Rs37 billion.

He told media persons at the National Press Club that a meeting of railways officials had been called in Lahore next Saturday to work out a comprehensive roadmap aimed at restructuring the railways.

About modernisation of the railways, he said that air-conditioned second- and third-class coaches would be introduced to facilitate the passengers. Moreover, arrangements would be made to install escalators at railway stations to facilitate senior citizens and special persons.

Says air-conditioned second, third class coaches to be introduced

The minister said that Lahore-Rawalpindi railway track would be made dual under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project with a view to reducing travelling time between the two cities by more than two hours.

The length of Kalowal to Jhelum railway track would be reduced from existing 65km to 15km by eliminating unnecessary curves, he said. The National Logistic Cell and the Frontier Works Organisation would be engaged to construct Gujar Khan-Jhelum railway track.

A plan is being prepared to upgrade 32 railway stations, including Chaklala and Margalla in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, respectively.

Sheikh Rashid also spoke about the revival of Leh Expressway under the CPEC project. The expressway had been planned during his last tenure as railways minister.

Earlier, taking charge of the Ministry of Railways for the second time since 2007, he pledged to make the state-owned entity a profitable organisation, promoting investment in railways and making it a cheap mode of transport for the people.

Earlier Shaikh Rashid had remained railways minister under the Musharraf regime from April 2006 to Nov 2007.

Officials of the railways ministry and Pakistan Railways briefed the minister about the current status of Pakistan Railways in terms of financial losses as well as passenger and freight train services in addition to the position of the rolling stock of the railways.

Shaikh Rashid asked the officials to carry out a detailed study to find out the reasons behind losses in Pakistan Railways.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2018