LAHORE: The Pakistan Railways (PR) will receive 46 coaches, of 230, from China in December. The coaches will have the capacity to run at the train’s speed of 160 kilometres per hour. PR teams are in China for the inspection of the prototypes of the coaches as well as the modern high-capacity wagons (goods/freight wagons) and to receive training on manufacturing of such rolling stock, Dawn learnt on Sunday.

An official source in the department said the first batch of high-capacity freight wagons would also be ready by January or so as their prototypes are not ready.

The railway is working to upgrade the dilapidated track as the Khanpur-Kotri section is not fit for high-speed train operation.

“But most of the ML-1 parts are fit for the 120km per hour train operation, and after the completion of the ML-1 project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the entire ML-1 track would have the capacity to bear the rolling stock operations at the speed of 160km per hour,” the source claimed, adding that the work on the upgrade of the track, especially the Khanpur-Kotri, would be launched soon.

Under $140 million contract (Rs31 billion, approximately), the Chinese company is to manufacture 230 state-of-the-art passenger coaches, of which 46 will be provided as completely built units and the remaining 184 will be manufactured in Pakistan by the PR engineers and technical staff under the supervision of the Chinese experts.

Under another similar nature contract, a Chinese firm will manufacture 800 freight wagons and 20 brake wagons. The manufacturing of 184 coaches in Pakistan will be under the ‘Transfer of Technology’ project. For the coaches planned to be manufactured in Pakistan - PR Carriage Factory, Islamabad - the Chinese firm will provide spare parts and raw materials.

The PR teams left for China in the second week of August consisting of 18 officials for design inspections, 20 for other inspections and the others for participating in the training related to the transfer of technology.

The dilapidated condition of the railway tracks and rolling stock, faulty signalling/interlocking system, officials’ negligence, speeding, unmanned railway level crossings, poor maintenance, financial crises and shortage of staff have caused a number of fatal accidents during the last couple of years.

The year 2019 was the worst for the railways in terms of accidents, including the horrible Tezgam fire tragedy, which occurred in October 2019. Over 100 accidents besides 111 incidents of engine failure were reported in 2019 alone. Over 100 people also lost their lives. The main accidents included the derailment of eight wagons of a freight/container train near Rahim Yar Khan (Taranda) on April 1, the derailment of a goods/container train near Padedan Station (Sindh) on May 18, derailment of Thal Express near Kundian on May 21, derailment of Jafar Express near Gujjar Khan on May 30, the fire incident in Jinnah Express dining car near Harappa (Sahiwal) on June 18, accidents of Jinnah Express near Hyderabad on June 20, parting of a running Pakistan Express train in two portions near Khanewal on July 11, accident of Akbar Express and goods train at Walhar station on July 12, derailment of Zakariya Express and a goods train near Kotri and Rohri stations on July 23, Tezgam train fire tragedy on Oct 30, accident of Sargodha Express with a dumper truck on Dec 10 and derailment of Jinnah Express near Lahore Railway Station on Dec 17.

Similarly, in 2020 train accidents continued, including a collision between Sir Syed Express and a mini truck at an unauthorized level crossing/passage, and the ramming of a train at an unmanned level crossing into a passenger coach near Sucha Soda. Up to 22 people died in the accidents. Likewise, in 2021 (especially from January to May), 64 accidents were reported. However, the railway authorities claimed that the accident ratio declined by 23 percent, while comparing the data with 2020’s first five months. However, on June June 6, 2021, up to 55 people lost their lives while nearly 100 others were injured after two passenger trains (Millat Express and Sir Syed Express) collided near Daharki, a city located in the Ghotki district of upper Sindh.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2022

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