Sunday, January 16, 2011

Railways awaits Rs11.1bn to be back on track

KARACHI: Pakistan Railways is eagerly waiting for the release of 11.1 billion rupees to get back on track while a former railways minister sees next two months crucial for the survival of this loss-making entity.

The federal cabinet on December 30, 2010 approved the Rs11.1 billion bailout package for Pakistan Railways, which will be used on the rehabilitation of the locomotives, improvement of tracks and maintaining strategic reserves to buy diesel.

We are in urgent need of money to rehabilitate 145 locomotives,” Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, Minister for Railways, told The News on phone. “There is a beeline of hundreds of vehicles waiting to send their goods, but we don’t have locomotives to fulfil the demand.” According to the minister, only three to four freight trains are currently in service and the overall need of Pakistan Railways goes up to 400. The existing locomotives, he said, are 30 to 40 years old and the addition of just 100 in past twenty years was nothing by any standards, he said. “We must add 30 locomotives a year to become sustainable,” Bilour added.

A former railways minister, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, said the ministry was dragging its feet on necessary reforms which could derail the organisation by March this year.

“The absence of locomotives is a big issue. But, the ministry doesn’t want to deliver and it’s a question of blue eyed officials,” Ahmed said.

Citing his experience, Ahmed said that railways could easily fix around 100 out of 500 defunct locomotives. He stressed the need of starting work on new projects and to renovate 27 stations burnt in the December 27 carnage in 2007. According to the former railways minister, selling land and outsourcing freight business could also boost the organisation’s revenue like it happened in the past.

The government earmarked Rs13.63 billion for the cash-strapped entity in the current fiscal year’s budget. The major losses faced by the Pakistan Railways today are a direct result of decreasing revenues with increased expenditures.

In view of the hike in diesel prices since 2008, Railways recently jacked up fares to the tune of 10 to 30 percent for passenger and freight trains.

“The strategy to increase fares have proven counterproductive, which passenger traffic by 60 percent,” Ahmed said.

To increase the number of locomotives, the government signed two separate deals with China’s Dong Fang and General Electric of the US to purchase 75 and 150 locomotives respectively. Both agreements are worth $105 million and $447 million respectively and await Supreme Court decision.

No comments:

Post a Comment

BLOG DIRECTORY, Submit blog free, Promote Blog, Best directory