LAHORE: Pakistan Railways’ outgoing Chief Executive Officer Shahid Aziz says there is an urgent need for Rs 35billion bailout package to keep the vital state institution on track.

“We need a bailout package from the government immediately to come out of fiscal crisis. We need Rs4/5 billion to clear pays, allowances etc. And if we talk about maintenance, we need Rs8 to 10 billion for track and the rolling stock,” Mr Aziz said while talking to journalists here at the PR’s headquarters on the eve of his retirement on Thursday.

“Moreover, there are a lot of liabilities of previous years. And if we include this too, we need Rs30 to 35 billion,” he added.

Talking about reasons behind the piling up of liabilities, pays and allowances, Mr Aziz said first the Covid-19 hit the PR’s businesses badly in 2020 and 2021, followed by devastating floods that not only affected train operations but also damaged adversely the railways infrastructure (track etc) in Sindh and Balochistan in August last year.

Device for better visibility during fog being tested

According to him, the PR was one of the most important departments of the country–second largest after the Pakistan army. “The railways is the ride of the poor and its revival is good for this country. However, the department’s present condition is not good. But it can be improved with due role of the officers, employees, workers etc as well as a bailout package,” he said.

He said keeping in view the massive drop in oil prices, the decision to reduce the train fares and freight charges was yet to be taken. According to him, the PR, on various occasions in recent past when the oil prices were increased, didn’t increase the fares.

Talking about the ML-1, he said this project’s bidding process would begin in January next year. He said modern instruments are being installed in the locomotives to improve visibility during foggy weather.

“Initially, the instrument has been installed in a locomotive for testing purpose. In coming days, we will get the same installed in four more locomotives in phase-1 of this initiative. With its installation, the driver will have visibility up to 700 meters in dense-foggy weather,” he added.

He said the Hazara Express accident inquiry had been completed which held eight officials responsible for being negligent. “I am retiring after giving the PR two projects – digitization of freight train operations and fog alert system,” he said.

He also recommended manufacturing of fog devices locally by the engineers of railways and other departments concerned.

Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2023

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