Railways operations suspended for indefinite period

Updated April 01, 2020

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A volunteer in protective gear stands at the entrance of a train's car, after the government turned it into a hospital and quarantine centre following the outbreak of Covid-19, in Rawalpind on March 31. — Reuters
A volunteer in protective gear stands at the entrance of a train's car, after the government turned it into a hospital and quarantine centre following the outbreak of Covid-19, in Rawalpind on March 31. — Reuters

LAHORE: The Pakistan Railways on Tuesday extended notification of suspension of its entire operations for an indefinite period.

The passengers having confirmed reservations in any train have been requested to either travel by any train or get refund of their tickets as soon as the PR resumes its operation in future, according to a press release issued by the PR.

On the other hand, officials have opposed continuation of work at the Pakistan Railways headquarters, workshops, carriage and sleeper factories, freight trains’ operations and other workplaces at a time when everyone needs social distancing to avert Covid-19. They have also expressed fear of the coronavirus spread if the PR continues carrying routine work at its departments.

“I don’t know why the Ministry of Railways is confused over this issue. It must see that the entire world is passing through a lockdown to fight this deadly disease by closing down all businesses. But this is happening probably only in Pakistan where all federal government ministries, departments, including railways’ head office, workshops, freight trains’ operations are going on,” an official told Dawn.

Officials decry exposure to virus hazards at workplaces

At a recent meeting held at the PR’s headquarters, the participants discussed various options whether or not to run some special trains for the passengers seeking travel in emergency. And finally a plan was discussed to run six special trains from April 1 and these included two from Peshawar to Karachi, three from Lahore to Karachi and one from Karachi to Quetta.

Moreover, the workers opposed work at all workshops, carriage and sleeper factories, PR headquarters.

However, the government decided not to allow the PR to run special trains for the passengers in an emergency. But the government didn’t take a decision to suspend official activities in the federal government departments including the PR’s head office, factories etc.

Earlier on March 25, a number of workers protested against the authorities for calling them on duty and not making appropriate precautionary measures for maintaining adequate person-to-person distance at workplaces.

“Whatever is happening here in the PR is really very strange. First they suspended operation of six trains (12 Up / Down) with effect from March 22. Later, they suspended another 11 trains with effect from March 25. And finally, they suspended the entire passenger trains’ operation till March 31. Before this they planned to run six special trains. But the government didn’t allow it to do so. On the other hand, the PR, side by side, continues opening the head office, workshops etc., endangering lives of a number of employees,” another official deplored.

“At this time, the poor workers, most of them over 50 years, need to stay home for protecting them from coronavirus and are not required to attend offices for various works,” he said.

NTDC: Chinese Energy Engineer Group “Jiangsu Power Design Institute Company Limited” has donated 10,000 medical face masks for the NTDC employees to keep them safe / protected from coronavirus.

A three-member Chinese delegation led by Xia Zhihao visited the NTDC House and handed over the masks to Deputy Managing Director Wajahat Saeed Rana.

Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2020