Islamabad: At a time when Pakistan’s train service is in jeopardy and administrative and operational mismanagement has marred the department, the Minister for Railways Shaikh Rashid Ahmad’s announcement to launch five new freight trains has come as a surprise.
While addressing a press conference in Lahore on Saturday, Ahmad said with the launch of Mianwali Express on Friday, the Pakistan Railways has achieved its target of launching new passenger trains. He said it is now time to launch goods trains and the railway is going to launch five new freight trains very soon.
This will substantially increase revenues and make up for losses, he added.
The minister’s statement, however, attracted more criticism than appreciation on social media as on July 11, Pakistan Railways suffered one of the country’s worst train collisions resulting in the death of 21 people. Ninety people were also injured when a Quetta-bound passenger train, the Akbar Express, collided with a freight train at the Walhar Railway Station in Sadiqabad.
After the accident, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government came under pressure as there were calls in Parliament and on media for the sacking of Ahmad.
On June 20, three passengers where killed and several injured as a passenger train collided with a freight train at Makli Shah, Hyderabad Sindh.
Even on Saturday, when the minister was addressing the press conference, a Karachi-bound Pakistan Express narrowly escaped a major accident at Dhenga Phatak (Jhang), after its joint suddenly broke, detaching five passenger coaches.
When his attention was drawn towards the poor state of affairs of the railway system, Ahmad said he had ordered a complete overhaul and had taken measures to ensure timely arrival and departure of trains.
“Our officers in Karachi are working on it and very soon we shall overcome the issues relating to late arrivals,” Ahmad said.
However, despite his promises, trains were late even on Sunday. According to the railway time table, Karachi-bound Karakorum Express coming from Lahore was seven hours late, Pakistan Express was three hours late, Awami Express coming from Peshawar to Karachi was five hours late, Sir Syed Express two hours and Shah Hussain Express was five hours late.
Ever since coming to power, the PTI government has come under criticism due to frequent train accidents and incidents of derailment and delays. The Minister for Railways has been blaming the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government for the poor state of affairs.
At the press conference, Ahmad criticised a leading US firm for providing faulty locomotives to Pakistan Railways.
“I have requested the PM to take up this matter with the US president during his meeting. I also want to take this case to the International Court of Justice, but we cannot afford the high fees of the international lawyers,” he said.
We have demanded of the US firm to remove faults in the locomotives, he said.