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ISLAMABAD: The prime minister has directed Pakistan Railways to begin efforts to retrieve encroached upon land and submit a comprehensive plan for an anti-encroachment drive within 15 days.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, while chairing a briefing on the Ministry of Railways on Thursday, also directed the organisation to plan the future utilisation of Railways land to generate revenue.

Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and other senior ministry officials attended the briefing.

Railways Secretary Mohammad Javed Anwar gave Mr Khan a detailed briefing on Pakistan Railways and the various measures being taken to turn the organisation into a sustainable and profitable venture.

He also told him about the thousands of acres of Railways land, worth billions of rupees, which have been encroached upon.

Sheikh Rashid on Thursday also visited the Rawalpindi Railway Station to witness the kinds of facilities provided to passengers and inspect Mianwali Rail Car that will be on track today (Friday).

Sheikh Rashid told the press that a new track will be laid from Quetta to Gwadar to increase business activity and connect the port city to the main line.

He said Railways would expand its existing network to reach remote parts of the country with the help of China Railways.

“We are all set to bring about a revolution in the railway sector with China’s help,” he said, adding that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor has all their support.

Sheikh Rashid said he has also discussed the encroachment of Railways land across the country with the prime minister and the land will be retrieved soon.

He said the deadline to make Railways into a profitable organisation is the end of December, and work has already begun to overcome the Rs42 billion deficit.

Few people in the Railways organisation are corrupt, he added, and most officials are working hard. He added that Imran Khan’s government would not tolerate any corruption.

The government will keep an eye on the services and facilities for people and officials who fail to provide facilities to average citizens will face action.

“I will inspect the facilities provided to passengers on trains and in railway stations in surprise visits and even in different guises,” Sheikh Rashid added.

“We are trying not to increase fares but reduce them further while running for trains on different routes,” he said, adding that economy trains will be upgraded further by next summer.

Two new trains will be launched today (Friday), the minister announced, that were prepared within 20 days. He also announced that each of the 30 labourers who worked day and night would be given Rs5,000 each.

Sheikh Rashid also announced that the Leh Nullah Express project will be revived and the Frontier Works Organisation will start working on it soon.

The Rs20bn project for the construction of an expressway from Moti Mehal to 9th Avenue dates back to 2006. It was inaugurated by Gen Musharraf but work stopped under the PML-N government in Punjab.

While briefing the minister, Railways officials said the Mianwali Rail Car comprises seven passenger coaches that were made at the Islamabad Carriage Factory in record time. The preparation cost was Rs8.5 million.

The fare for the train is Rs260 per passenger from Rawalpindi to Mianwali and Rs320 from Rawalpindi to Kundian. Tickets will be half-price for the first three days.

China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) General Manager Wang Xiaofeng also called on Sheikh Rashid at the Railways ministry on Thursday.

Both sides discussed matters of mutual cooperation and Sheikh Rashid asked Mr Wang for concrete proposals for the development of Pakistan Railways.

“Pakistan and China enjoy cordial relations and all good proposals from CHEC will be welcomed,” Sheikh Rashid said.

CHEC has shown an interest in working with Railways on a build-operate-transfer basis for the construction of an inland container depot (dry port) at the Marshalling Yard Pipri and the rehabilitation of railway lines in Karachi Port and Marshalling Yard Pipri.

The delegation has also shown interest in using the railway network to operate shuttle freight trains to transport on containers between the Karachi Port and Marshalling Yard Pipri.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2018