A plan for PR

Published December 1, 2023

THE new chief executive officer (CEO) of Pakistan Railways (PR) has said that improving passenger services through the best possible public facilitation methods would be his core priority. He also added that he wanted to increase earnings through freight trains. He wants to make railways a self-sustaining organisation. Pakistanis hope and pray that he succeeds.

Many CEOs before him have tried to turn PR from a loss-making business to a profitable entity. His plans should be different than earlier plans to get the desired goals. If the plans are similar, the results would not be dissimilar.

PR has the biggest and priciest real estate in Pakistan. For example, in Karachi, its property starts from the port and extends right up to Landhi, some 35km away. I have seen railway lines passing below multistoried buildings in the West and in China. We should see if we can have something like that.

How about the department leasing out just 3km-long and half-a-kilometre-wide land strip from Port Grand to PIDC building to international construction companies? This is zero point Karachi. They should be allowed to build skyscrapers above the existing railway lines and adjacent spaces. They will, however, have to ensure that the rail traffic is not affected.

If we have plots of land of, say, 3,000 square yards, we will have 500 such plots in the propsed area. Each plot can easily be leased out or sold for about Rs3 billion. The new PR chief says he needs Rs35 billion to keep the department on track. This simpple process will get him Rs1,500 billion from just a 3km segment in Karachi out of a possible 35km-long and half-a-kilometre-wide property. This area is downtown Karachi and is ideal for five-star hotels, offices, banks, import and shipping offices, etc. They can even build high-end residential projects. The revenue thus generated will help PR in servicing its debts, relea- sing salaries, investing in new rolling stocks and modernising its workshops.

S. Nayyar Iqbal Raza
Karachi

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2023

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