Pakistan Railways: A dead horse
UNDOUBTEDLY, the transport sector, particularly railways, play an important role in the socio-economic betterment of any country. Unfortunately, Pakistani railways needs a dire overhaul. The restoration of railways is one of the biggest priorities of the government.
It requires to begin acting before losing more man and material. Over the previous few decades, Pakistan Railways has not been on route owing to the multi-faceted challenges of governance, political interference, lawlessness, insufficient human capital, bad infrastructure, and massive deficiencies are preventing Pakistan Railways from being on rails.
In addition, the thriving percentage of investment in road infrastructure and the continued poor investment in Pakistani railways have damaged financial position of Pakistan Railways. Travelling sans a ticket on Pakistan Railways also happens quite repeatedly, which builds losses for Pakistan Railways.
This unethical activity is most apparent on branch lines where it is believed to happen with the help of railway police and ticket verifiers. To increase financial profits, Pakistan’s railways should enhance administration to bridge these leaks. Miserable infrastructure similarly contributes to the distraction of Pakistan Railways. Most of Pakistan’s railway resources, involving physical infrastructure, have been used to their full potential and are no longer profitable, extremely disrupting the effectiveness of the work.
The main losses tackled by the Pakistan Railways today are a direct outcome of dwindling revenues with heightened expenses. The expenditure recently crossed Rs.51 billion in one year out of which Rs.20 billion were allocated for salaries and pensions. The revenues are decreasing to about Rs.23 billion per year.
In developing countries where a large number of people utilize public transport, railways have become the means of transportation for the working and middle class. In neighbouring India, hundreds cling onto each other in compartments to travel to work daily. But in Pakistan, the emotionlessness by succeeding administrations towards this sector has given rise to Pakistan Railways being a dying horse.
It has been recorded that a whopping Rs 1.19 trillion have been incurred in damages under the existing government’s term with Rs 28.21 billion paid on pays of current railways employees alone. But that’s not the only shocking aspect. What is horrible is that the death toll has risen from 65 to 270 people who lost their lives with around 370 wounded in 450 from deadly train accidents between 2018 and 2021. It is hard to fathom the reality that over 450 train accidents have appeared in around a half-decade, which approximately signifies nine accidents per month.
We can never forget that in June alone, more than 60 people lost their lives in the Millat Express disaster when the train was travelling from Karachi to Ghotki. The reason was found to be the deficit of supervision and maintenance of routes and henceforth, administrators were discontinued, just for stopping a train to purchase yogurt on the way.
Nevertheless, a rapid summary of the constant train accidents that happen would state that they could have effortlessly been prevented. Scarcity of up-gradation of the sector and incapability of the administration is to blame its horrendous deterioration. We have observed that Pakistani Railways has undergone a series of losses in recent decades.
Acute steps and reforms must be seized before destroying the whole railway the system. The government should perform such actions that could save people’s life and money and different kinds of losses.
—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Kandhkot, Sindh.