LAHORE: If upgrade of the Main Line One (ML-1) did not materialise as per the set time frame, then it could be tough for the Pakistan Railways to ensure its development, cautioned Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Rafique said, “The corporation needs up to $30 billion for its complete revival, if projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are not completed on time and face undue delays, then things could once again get ugly.”
“Among all projects, the ML-1 (covering Karachi-Peshawar junctions) is of extreme importance and its upgrade is expected to begin in December this year.”
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Once upgraded, he said, ML-1 would attract much more business as the capacity, which currently is 32 trains per 24 hours, would increase up to 171 trains.
Talking about four-year performance of the Pakistan Railways under his tenure, Rafique said its revenues, which had dropped to Rs18 billion in 2013-14, had increased significantly.
“We have successfully closed financial year 2016-17 and have earned Rs40.1 billion, an increase of 123% in four years.”
The corporation has managed to increase its freight fleet from 182 to 2,218 in the four financial years and the number of locomotives for freight services has increased from 8 to 102, with total operational engines standing at 315 from 160.
Rafique said Pakistan Railways managed to run its entire operations from 14% of revenues and a major chunk had been utilised on salary and pensions with the burden increasing every year.
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“Railways spends 72% of its income on paying salaries and pensions … (and the) burden is increasing,” he said, adding, “Now courts have extended the pension payments to the widows and even daughters (who are widow) of late railway workers, which cost us Rs750 million per annum.”
That meant that the railways now had to bear Rs11 billion in additional burden under these heads, if the practice, especially the case of pensions, continued, then the institute would have to move towards contract jobs, the minister remarked.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2017.
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