Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Thursday during a talk with the media in Rawalpindi said that the railways ministry faces a debt of Rs37-40 billion left behind by the "previous corrupt, dishonest government" which had been "tooting its own horns claiming that the industry is doing well".
He said that the yearly expenditure was found to be Rs9bn and he has issued instructions to the Divisional Superintendent (DS) Rawalpindi to cut expenditures.
Sheikh Rashid said that the ministry has roughly 20-25 acres of land which private companies "are welcome to invest in for 20 years and build plazas, stations and food streets".
"We do not want any delay [...] we are willing to rent out the railway tracks even," he said, highlighting the gravity of the situation the ministry is facing.
He said that many overseas Pakistanis [interested in investing] had asked that they be "given surety" by Imran Khan himself, to which he had responded: "Imran Khan is the one who has appointed me and given me charge of this ministry."
"Many offers have been made for bringing bullet trains to the country by people who said they will invest their own funds but I have told them this is a very expensive project. We must fix 'our trains' first," he added.
He said his first agenda would be to address the matter of the double track from Lahore to Peshawar, whereby he wants to do away with the 6-kilometre zig-zag track and also have the train pass through areas where there are no paved roads. He said he has contacted National Logistics Cell (NLC) and Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) in this regard.
We will make efforts for a straight track from Kalowal to Jhelum eliminating unnecessary curves of 56 kilometres with a view to reducing the travelling time between Rawalpindi and Lahore. We want to start new train for Bisal, Jand and Mianwali to facilitate the citizens, Rashid added.
According to the minister, the first train to run will have a 10 per cent discount offered to customers for a period of one month.
Moreover, he warned his ministry officials that he would not tolerate corruption and any political interference in the railways. "Imran Khan's cabinet has zero tolerance policy towards corruption. We will not tolerate one per cent corruption in the railways departments,” he asserted.
“I will double the number of freight trains,” the minister said, emphasising that no railway system could survive without a strong freight train system. "I want to start trains from Karachi to Sukkur, Rawalpindi to Lahore and Rawalpindi to Mianwali."