LAHORE: Federal Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed
Bilour has said that special focus will be given to the promotion
of freight sector to increase revenues and reduce Railways deficit.
Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, he said “While
provision of safe, comfortable, speedy and economical travel facilities
is the top priority for me, but at the same time special steps will be
taken to promote the freight sector as it is the only way to increase Railways income and reduce the hefty deficit.”
He regretted that wrong policies in the past, including the
neglect of the profit-earning freight sector, the Railways overdraft
today stands at a whopping Rs 28 billion.
To a question whether he would recommend privatisation of
Railways in view of its poor economic situation, the minister said
“Railways is a public service organisation and we will ensure
measures to improve its economic condition. I believe that serving
Railways is serving Pakistan”.
About the rise in Railways' overdraft from Rs 23 billion to
28 billion during the current year, he said it has nothing do with
the performance of the department.
He said the reasons for the enormous increase in overdraft
were increase in salaries and allowances of employees by 20 percent,
costing Rs 609 million, while the raise in pension by 20 percent
cost another Rs 291 million.
The minister also pointed to the enhanced prices of diesel
and lubricants which cost the Railways 2 billion, foreign debt
servicing of Rs 1.206 billion, while Rs 2.658 billion were spent
in payments which could not be made during the last year due to
paucity of funds.
The hike in dollar rate in the international market had also
cost Pakistan Railways Rs 75 million, he added.
Bilour assured that all possible steps will be taken for
provision of increased facilities to the travelling public at
railways stations as well as in the trains, and promised effective
steps to check black marketing of tickets by expanding the tickets computerisation system.