THIS refers to the Ghotki train accident in which over 60 lives have been lost so far. After every major rail accident, I send an email to 27 most senior officials of railway, explaining why train accidents will keep happening and what is necessary to prevent them. One must appreciate the steadfastness of Pakistan Railways. Spread over many years, not a single email has ever been responded to.
More people died in the Ghotki train accident than all the deaths put together in all the railway accidents that occurred in the United Kingdom in the last 20 years. Only in the last four months, Pakistan Railways had 64 accidents; nine times more than what Turkey had in the last 21 years.
What makes Pakistan Railways so inefficient and unsafe? The answer is simple. It is still operated with outdated and worn-out equipment and tracks, while its management system chugs along with 18th century colonial and bureaucratic processes.
Other than Afghanistan, Pakistan Railways is perhaps the only railway in the world that does not have even a rudimentary occupational health and safety management system, which is a requirement globally, even if you operate a 10-person company.
A documented health and safety system is a legal requirement in the UK if you employ five or more people. It is a system that sets out an organisation’s approach and commitment together with the arrangements that have been put in place for managing health and safety of people and equipment.
It is a unique document that defines ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ of eliminating or managing hazards and potential risks in an organisation.
The first thing that our politicians do after an accident is to blame each other. The next thing they do is to blame the linemen, the signalmen, the train drivers, the electricians, the tracks, the passengers and even the pressure-cookers (remember that?). No one is willing to acknowledge that we have an archaic top management that ought to have been crushing stones rather than managing trains.
To retain the same ‘leadership’ and to insist on not developing a railway safety system is to guarantee unending accidents and continued loss of life.
THIS refers to the editorial ‘Another train tragedy’ (June 8). That the British-era railway system is one-and-a-half-century-old is well known and time has taken its toll. That the system needs urgent rehabilitation and upgradation is beyond doubt or debate.
It was in this context that the ML-1 project, costing several billion dollars, was mooted by the government about 18 months ago for which the technical feasibility stands already completed. It was, and is, rightly considered to be a game-changer for the national economy.
As per the understanding, China was to provide 85 per cent financing, while 15pc financing was to be provided by the Pakistan government. While the Chinese have committed to providing their share of funding, the government is dragging its feet on providing its share of finances and that is the reason for the impasse.
One wonders if the new budget will bring any change in the status.
The incumbent federal minister for railways has never shown much enthusiasm about the ML-1 project.
It seems that certain elements within the government are creating roadblocks in the implementation of the project that can revolutionise transportation in the country while also providing connectivity to the systems of other countries in the region in pursuit of the One Belt One Road mega initiative.
It is time the government paid serious attention to the matter.
Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2021