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Sheikh Rasheed, your portfolio is in danger

Inaugurating new trains isn't the answer to our problems

SAMAA | - Posted: Apr 17, 2019 | Last Updated: 3 years ago
Posted: Apr 17, 2019 | Last Updated: 3 years ago

PIA, the Pakistan Steel Mills and Pakistan Railways are national institutions that could be profitable national assets were they run honestly and in a more organised way. But the current lack of planning has turned these profit-rich institutions into loss-incurring white elephants.

Federal Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed seems to be in a hurry to inaugurate as many trains as he can. It’s as if he believes his portfolio is in danger and he may just be right. But the answer to all his and the Pakistan Railways problems isn’t inaugurating new trains.

The Dhabeji Express, a circular train for Karachi, was inaugurated on October 31 by President Dr Arif Alvi.

The train’s launch came with tall claims about the revival of the circular train in Karachi. It was claimed that the train would be a great facility for the people of Karachi, especially the salaried class. The train was also touted as a solution to the Railways’ financial problems. But all these claims were made without proper planning and the train service was shut down within five months of its launch on April 10.

Very few regular passengers used the service, which had a very cheap ticket, according to the Railways department. The train’s fare was fixed at Rs70 per person at maximum.

Related: Dhabeji Express stops running five months after launch

The service shutting down has raised several questions, the first being why did it take the administration so long to realise that the service was not meeting even its fuel expenses? After the service was restored, why did no senior officer think of travelling on the train to get an idea of the number of passengers? The department thought of it at a time when the service already incurred a loss of millions of rupees.

Last November some other journalists and I traveled on the Dhabeji Express to learn more about it. It took one and half hours to get from Karachi’s City Station to the Dhabeji station. The train stopped at Karachi Cantt, Drigh Road, Malir Colony, Landhi Junction, Bin Qasim and Pipri.

There were six coaches and each coach had a seating capacity of 70 passengers. That means the train had seats for 450 commuters but only around 50 people used it every day, despite the low fare. Around 150 to 200 people, including Railways employees, used it on the weekends.

Every day, it cost Rs100,000 to run the Dhabeji Express, an employee of the Railways’ carriage and wagon department told me. However, the train couldn’t earn even Rs15,000, he revealed.

The man feared that the train would have to be closed due to the lack of passengers. But he thought it shouldn’t shut down because it offered a much needed facility for people.

Related: Shehbaz Sharif can’t evade justice now, says Sheikh Rasheed

The train’s monthly expenditure was estimated to be around Rs3 million but ticket sales only raked in Rs450,000 at most. This means that every month the Dhabeji Express lost Rs2.55 million.

The train lost the Railways department a whopping Rs12.5 million in its five months of operation.

The way the Railways minister is inaugurating trains one after the other will only add to the department’s losses. If the present state of affairs is allowed to continue, the Railways won’t become a profitable institution and will ultimately weigh heavily on the national exchequer.

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  1. Syed  April 17, 2019 10:29 pm/ Reply

    I was travelling in Zakaria Express economy class this Jan… It was too cold, people and children were sleeping on floor in blankets, and I saw at least three rats eating food on the floor on moving train.

    Very sad affairs of railways.

  2. Kayani M H.  April 17, 2019 10:51 pm/ Reply

    What a poor planning, this state of affairs suggests they do not have expertise in any department,no matter how small or big and important it is !.

  3. Saqib Hasan  April 19, 2019 11:27 am/ Reply

    Improvement claims in Railway by Sh. Rasheed are all lies. Last month i traveled to Khanpur from Karachi by Khyber Mail in AC sleeper class. The coach was in a pathetic condition. during the travel several times i felt that it will de-rail. The attendant told me that it is 32 years old, The toilet was filthy. No way the compartment was close to the standards of AC Sleeper. Any one can go and check the AC sleeper coach of UP going Khyber mail.

  4. Zia  May 18, 2019 1:31 pm/ Reply

    If one thinks this is the way Naya Pakistan is going to unction? Sorry it is not so…Nation was sold tickets for some better show….

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