LAHORE: Following the recent reprimand by the country’s top court, Pakistan Railways (PR) seems to have realised the core issues in its countrywide operation, as it has finally pledged to list passengers’ safety and trains’ punctuality on top priority in its business plan submitted to the apex court recently.
“In compliance with the directions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Jan 28, the Ministry of Railways presented its business plan to the court for the revival of PR and making it an efficient organisation to provide safe and economical transport services to the passengers and cargo,” reads a draft paper of the plan.
The apex court while hearing a case on the PR’s financial deficit last month (Jan 28) had reportedly expressed dissatisfaction over performance of the Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid and remarked that he (the minister) should have resigned in the wake of horrible fire incident of Tezgam express on Oct 31 that left 73 passengers dead and several injured near Rahim Yar Khan.
The court also expressed displeasure over the action taken by the PR against the low-grade officials for their negligence and said why the administration avoided taking action against the senior officers. It also directed the ministry to submit a detailed business plan within 15 days. However, the day after the reprimand by the court, the PR suspended a grade-19 officer from service for allegedly showing negligence in this regard.
Envisages computerised operation and financial management
The PR terms its business plan [was] prepared and submitted for the first time in the history in a comprehensive manner. “The plan has been evolved by the Ministry of Railways and a team of its senior officers. This plan will be reviewed by a panel of international experts to be engaged by the ministry through International Development Partners,” explains the draft paper.
The most important component of the plan is to improve safety and punctuality of the trains for which a separate office of chief operating superintendent has been established. Similarly a safety conference will be organised on a monthly basis.
The second salient feature of the plan is the digitisation and implementation of information technology to promote automation. Through this system, all the operations and financial management of the railways will be computerised.
Another important feature of the plan is to engage private sector in railway operations, track improvement and manufacturing through joint ventures and public-private partnership (PPP) mode. The railway has already started the process to outsource Royal Palm Golf Club and its hospitals.
“Through Track Access Policy, some parties have already been engaged to run the freight trains. Through this plan, the whole rolling stock will be reviewed as per requirement of the new vision of railway which will be made through ML-I Project,” the paper maintained.
Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2020