ISLAMABAD: To contain the spread of the coronavirus, the Pakistan Railways has decided to suspend 12 trains from March 22 (Sunday) and may close 20 more from April 1, depending on the gravity of the situation then.
Addressing a press conference at the press information department on Thursday, Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said the measures had been taken for the safety of people and to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the country.
The suspended trains include: Khushhal Khan Khattak Express (from Peshawar to Karachi-Karachi to Peshawar), Akbar Express (from Lahore to Quetta-Quetta to Lahore), Sindh Express (from Karachi to Multan-Multan to Karachi), Ravi Express (from Lahore to Shorkot-Shorkot to Lahore), Shah Latif Express (from Dhabeji to Mirpurkhas-Mirpurkhas to Dhabeji) and Rohi Passenger from Sukkur to Khanpur.
“The passengers who already got seat reservations in these trains will be returned the fare without any deduction. All the tickets will be refunded to the passengers and they will also be given a choice to use other trains in this fare,” he said.
He said that to be able to refund the 100 per cent fare, Pakistan Railways had commenced work worth Rs80 million and it would be completed in three to four days. He said that the railways would not facilitate the passengers if they wanted to go to other destinations on this fare.
He said that daily 134 trains plied across the country and more than 70 million travelled through Pakistan Railways annually while 200,000 people travelled daily. However, due to the outbreak of coronavirus, the number of passengers has reduced to 160,000.
He said that a total of 15 freight trains were operational and it would not be closed in the coming days to transport goods across the country.
The minister said that the Pakistan Railways took a difficult decision to shut down some trains instead of closing the train service completely as otherwise they would not be able to pay the pensions and the salaries to the employees.
“We earn money from passengers and freight trains and it is spent on the expenditures of the train services, pension and salaries,” he said, adding that the Pakistan Railways earned Rs10 billion profit last fiscal year and after payment of petroleum charges and procurement of engines, it had saved Rs4bn.
He said the trains that would be suspended from March 22, would be parked in Walton, Kot Lakhpat, Landhi, Malir, Chaklala and Peshawar. He said two trains would be parked per area.
The minister said Pakistan Railways has called a special meeting on March 25 to make decisions regarding further plan of action.
The minister said that Pakistan Railways had 12 big hospitals and 26 dispensaries and had offered the federal government to utilise these health facilities for establishment of isolation centres of coronavirus.
The minister opposed the idea of a complete lockdown, saying that it was not the solution of any problem as the countries where a lockdown was implemented could not contain the virus either.
To a question about the closure of Lal Haveli, his political office, Sheikh Rashid said he had not yet stopped listening to public complaints in Lal Haveli on Mondays and Fridays and that he would continue mitigating sufferings of the people and maintaining close contact with them despite coronavirus fears.
Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2020