People demand efficient Railways

THE new Minister for Railways, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, declared on Monday to work hard to further improve this very important mode of transportation and announced a number of measures aimed at meeting these goals. His plans include upgradation of 32 railway stations, building 5,000 quarters for employees, generating 20,000 jobs, upgrading railway hospitals and doubling the track with investment from China under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Sheikh Rasheed is not new to Railways and therefore one can expect that he would be able to implement a workable reforms agenda to help bring more improvement in financial health of the institution besides ensuring quality and variety of service to passengers and other citizens. Railway was in a shambles and credit goes to Khawaja Saad Rafiq for reducing its deficit to a great extent as he succeeded in his effort to generate more revenue without increasing fares or getting any bail-out package from the government as had been the practice before him. This poses a real challenge to Sheikh Rasheed as his performance would be measured against superb handling of railway affairs by his predecessor. Sheikh Rasheed should select a team of competent and honest professionals to get full government patronage for fast-track modernisation of Railways especially building Karachi-Peshawar dual track, a modern signalling system and electrification of trains under CPEC.
The most urgent and daunting challenge for him would be to eradicate corruption from his organisation, make business deals transparent, reactivate maintenance and manufacturing facilities, encourage Research and Development, prevent misuse of railway trains and bogies by vested interests and focus on human resource development. Given Railways financial crisis, it is strange that Sheikh Rasheed also intends to hire twenty thousand more employees whereas there is already huge redundancy in Railways. It would be unfair and grave injustice to burden the Railways with more employees until and unless it earns profit instead of incurring losses worth billions of rupees.

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