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LAHORE: Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad on Saturday constituted two committees to ensure transparency in the future development projects and to minimise chances of corruption in the department, besides announcing that train passengers will be charged nominal amount as a contribution to the dam fund.

One committee would re-evaluate railway projects initiated under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), while the other would supervise investment matters in the railways, the minister told the media before a ceremony held here at Pakistan Railways headquarters to sign an agreement with the Jamshoro Power Company for transportation of coal.

“Railway is the backbone of the CPEC. Comprising experts from other government departments, one committee will assess actual condition of the Main Line 1, which is part of the $8.7m component Pakistan Railways has in the CPEC. The other committee will ensure that investment is made in right direction in the department. Headed by PR Chairman Javaid Anwar and CEO Aftab Akbar, both the committees have been formed to ensure implementation of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s zero-tolerance policy for corruption,” said the minister.

He said that he would discourage single bidding in the future projects of railways and promote open competition in the award of contracts. However, cooperation with the National Logistics Cell (NLC) and the Frontier Works Orgnization (FWO) would continue as working with these agencies would mean keeping the money in the national exchequer, he said, adding that he was committed to ending railways’ deficit within one year.

“Our focus is on freight sector. We are signing agreements with many companies to use railways infrastructure and soon we will also start a world class courier and freight service,” he said.

Gwadar has been made the eighth operational division of the Pakistan Railways. The PR already has 250-acre land in Gwadar and now it has been decided to purchase another 300-acre land to meet the future operational needs. One extra salary will be given to the officers and officials opting to work there.

The rail track connecting Quetta with Taftan will be replaced. “Efforts are under way to seek cooperation of Iran for the replacement of the 700-kilometers track, which will primarily be used for transportation of freight. It will also facilitate pilgrims,” the minister said.

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan would inaugurate operation of the Mianwali and Margalla express trains at Islamabad on Sept 14.

“Plans are being finalised to operate Moenjodaro Express between Sukkur and Kotri and another train between Karachi and Peshawar,” he said.

The minister said it had been decided to generate money for the Prime Minister and Chief Justice Dam Fund by nominally charging the commuters.

“The PR will be able to deposit Rs100m per annum to the Fund. From economy class passengers, one rupee would be charged on every Rs100 ticket and Rs2 on a ticket worth more than Rs100. Passenger travelling in AC Sleeper will pay Rs10 per ticket for the dam fund,” he said.

The minister said two websites would also be launched. “One will be reserved for lodging complaints and submitting suggestions for improvement in our services. The other will be for the investors,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2018