LAHORE: The federal government has pledged to provide Rs14bn to the Pakistan Railways (PR) for rehabilitation of its infrastructure massively damaged by the devastating floods in Balochistan.

The funds will only be utilised for rehabilitation of the rail infrastructure in Balochistan alone, according to Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique.

“The federal government will provide a financial aid of Rs14bn to the PR for the repair/rehabilitation of rail infrastructure. These funds will be limited to be used for Balochistan,” the minister said while presiding over a meeting on Thursday.

The railways had, on Aug 21, suspended its train operations at various sections, mostly in Balochistan and Sindh, after the flash floods washed away the tracks in the provinces. The situation had forced the authorities to cancel or delay departure of various trains also, according to official sources. The Jaffar Express’s operation had also been squeezed to Sibi from Sukkur while the same strategy was also adopted at other sections affected by floods.

SOPs issued for train operations in foggy conditions

The train operations remained suspended during the second week of August at Narowal-Sialkot section after the Nullah Dek overflowed and washed away the railway line. However, the authorities resumed the operation after rehabilitating the affected track within a couple of days. On Nov 21—three months after the floods in Balochistan, the railways succeeded in restoring train operations linking the province with Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Jaffar Express became the first train to leave the Mach Railway Station carrying 261 passengers.

The participants in the meeting discussed various issues and also took decisions in this regard. It approved a proposal seeking stoppage of all trains at major railway stations up to five minutes to ease passengers in leaving and catching trains comfortably. It allowed the railways authorities to attach power and luggage vans at the end or start of the rake after the locomotive.

The minister directed the authorities to allow attaching additional coaches on weekends with the trains running between Lahore-Rawalpindi sections. He asked the officers to submit the PR Lahore Headquarters’ restoration plan on a war-footing basis. Mr Rafique also directed the officers to launch a massive crackdown on the encroachers in the Karachi division.

The participants also reviewed composition, income, expenses and stoppages of Mehr, Badar, Ravi, Sir Syed, Ghauri and Thal express trains.

On the other hand, the PR (Lahore Division) issued on Tuesday the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the train operations in foggy weather.

According to the SOPs issued by the Divisional Transportation Officer (DTO) Ammara Sammi, the drivers, guards, cabin men and station masters have been asked to act wisely and vigilantly in foggy weather. They, especially the drivers, have been directed to slow down the trains’ speed in dense fog and keep eyes on the signals. Under the SOPs, the staff concerned has been directed to keep the locomotive headlights, inner lights and buffer-side lights operational. The public at large has been asked to use authorised passages to cross the railway lines.

Moreover, the PR Police on Tuesday arrested two suspects stealing the rail material at the Mughalpura workshop. According to a spokesman, the accused were arrested by the patrol police officials.

Meanwhile, the railway drivers called off the strike call after the railway authorities transferred half of the salaries to their account.

“We had announced to stop trains in a strike from Tuesday. But we called it off after we received half of the salaries in our accounts. Rest of the salaries would be transferred on Wednesday (today),” said Karim Bakhash, an office-bearer of the PR train drivers association while talking to Dawn on Tuesday.

Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2022

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