ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Railways was made aware on Thursday that Pakistan Railways would soon bring in a new solar-powered traffic signaling system, under which there would be an alarm system to notify train drivers of any activity on the track within a distance of 3.5 kilometres.

Railways Minister Saad Rafique notified the committee that the Punjab government had released Rs610 million to sustain 75 unmanned railway crossings while the Sindh government had released Rs80m for 15 crossings of the sort.

According to him, the action taken by the two provincial governments would help subdue accidents on unmanned railway crossings.

About the unmanned railway crossings in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, the minister said that the two governments had not replied as of yet, even though written requests were sent to them.

In reference to the handing over of 34 acres of land to Defence Housing Authority (DHA) by the deputy commissioner, the committee was made aware that the Punjab chief secretary had withdrawn the summary which had been sent to the chief minister to be green-lighted.

Committee chairman Senator Sardar Fateh Muhammad Hasni stated that the deputy commissioner had illegally leased out the land to the DHA, Bahawalpur.

“Who empowered him to lease out the railway land to DHA?” he inquired.

The committee will next meet in Lahore. He requested the railways ministry, the Punjab chief secretary and the defence ministry to provide the lease papers in the next meeting.

Mr Rafique made the committee aware that the matter was before a civil court but it would now be raised before a superior court.

He stated that with the lease of 34 acres to the DHA, Pakistan Railways would have to change or restore its 140km-long track to a different or its former position.

He stated that salary of train drivers was insufficient and railways was weighing in giving them a package of up to Rs100,000.

The chairman called for the revenue officials to be called upon at the next meeting.

The committee chairman said that the finance ministry had taken the responsibility of the payment concerning the handing over of the railways land in Chaman to the telecom company Etisalat and the payment of the price of land to the PR by the finance ministry. He stated the payment should be made within two weeks, or else the committee would suggest an action in this regard.

Concerning the throwing away of the railway scrap, the committee was told that a mafia used to lift thousands of tonnes of scrap material for a meager amount, but under a new policy made in 2013, every railway division called for bids for the disposal of the scrap, and the department had earned Rs413m this year against the target of Rs450m.

Senator Taj Haider recommended that the PR should produce itself railway tracks.

Mr Rafique revealed that work on a joint venture was on-going between Pakistan Railways and Heavy Mechanical Complex.