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Train in trouble

January 29, 2013

THE partnership between business and railways has hit snags yet again. The Business Train, a landmark initiative that promised to show Pakistan Railways the way forward, has come to a halt. At the time of writing, negotiations between the railways officials and their private-sector collaborators had failed to put the train back on track. The Railways wants its partners to pay it the outstanding amount of Rs310m that has taken about a year to pile up. The other side has so far been unable to clear the bill, which is surprising given that the Business Train plied the busiest Lahore-Karachi-Lahore route. Along with it, Shalamar Express and Night Coach are also operated with private assistance. These three trains have been clocking the best time over the last few months even when the Railways’ own major services, such as the once much-fancied Karakoram Express, have been lagging far behind.

The Night Coach and Shalamar Express are doing well enough for Railways officials and others to wonder what really ails the Business Train. While some of these officials complain that the private-sector partner had not invested enough money in the venture, independent observers including journalists are of the opinion that far from being a struggle as it is often made out to be, this should have been a profit-making project right from the word go. Some are hopeful the train can still be fixed and live up to its original billing. The Railways does have a responsibility to keep the Business Express on track, but it is in a really bad financial situation. This is one instance where the temptation to blame the public sector has to be resisted and a way found to ensure the outstanding amount is quickly cleared and the Business Train allowed to continue.