LAHORE: Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad has announced that all schools and factories along the rail track will be closed down all over the country.
“No school or small industrial unit built on railway land along the 1,700km long rail track all over the country will operate after Oct 30,” said the minister at a news conference at Pakistan Railways (PR) headquarters here on Saturday.
Sheikh Rashid said that strict action would be taken against the people illegally using railway land.
“Rail track is neither a jogging track nor a playground. Parents of children found playing cricket at any rail track will be taken into custody,” the minister warned.
He said railways earned Rs1 billion more during the first 50 days of the PTI government. Railways earned Rs6.71 billion this year compared to Rs5.7 billion earning of the corresponding period of the previous year, claimed the minister.
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan would soon inaugurate two shuttle trains for the labour class of Karachi.
“One shuttle train will run between Karachi and Dhabeji and another between Karachi and Hyderabad. The route of Sukkur Express will be extended up to Jacobabad on the demand of the residents of Shikarpur.
“Timings of two trains had also been revised to facilitate the passengers. Rail Car from Lahore would now leave for Islamabad at 10am instead of 8am, while Mianwali Express would be departing from Lahore for Mianwali at 2pm instead of 7pm,” he said.
Announcing relief for economy class passengers of two trains originating from Quetta, he said Bolan Express fare would now be Rs700 instead of previous Rs1,200 for a single journey between Karachi and Quetta. A single journey by Akbar Bugti Express between Quetta and Lahore would cost Rs800 instead of Rs1,000.
Regarding the progress on the initiatives taken by the PTI government, the minister said that Wi-Fi gadgets had been installed at Sukkur and Rohri railway stations. The free Wi-Fi service would be available in Green Line Express, Tezgam and Karachi Express by end of current month, he added. Catering service in the Green Line Express would also be improved in the coming week, he claimed.
A task force, comprising nine senior officers, has been constituted to improve the PR freight service. “We will increase the per day number of freight trains from Karachi to various upcountry destinations to 15 from the present eight. In the passenger sector we are short of coaches. We have set a target to rehabilitate 100 coaches per month at the Loco Factory and Carriage Workshops. By Dec 30 this year, all the 672 `dead’ coaches will be rehabilitated, enabling us to operate more trains,” he said.
“Not a single person will be recruited in violation of merit. A summary regarding recruitment of 8,000 workers has been sent to the prime minister for approval. The workers employed on contract basis for the last seven years under the PM’s package would be given preference.
“They will have at least 10 per cent quota. I am not authorised to regularise service of contract employees, only the prime minister can take a decision in this behalf,” the minister said.
To a question, the minister said that a huge sum of Rs4.3 million was spent on the renovation of a railway station in the constituency of former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal.
“We earn only Ra0.6 million revenue from Narowal. Locomotives worth Rs220 million were bought for Rs420 million during the previous government and we will audit of the deal,” he said.
Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2018