Friday’s tragedy in Rohri is yet another indicator of how far our railway system has fallen from its glory days of old. The death of 20 people with 30 others injured is a testament to how dangerous and problematic an important means of transport has become in Pakistan.

It is not just the sheer number of terrible accidents that take place on a regular basis, the infrastructure is not such that encourages regular travel through railway lines. Since 1947 we have not managed to improve any aspect of service delivery in the railway sector. In fact, things have only gotten worse. Our dream of having a railway system comparable to other developed countries will remain unfulfilled if things stay the way they are.

The worst part in this is that we once had a system that was both efficient and comparable to the best in the world. The British left behind tracks that covered the length and breadth of the most hard-to-reach areas in Pakistan, from Punjab to all over Balochistan. We still have remnants of tracks and old stations in places where it would be difficult to construct functional routes, even today.

Across the world, inter and intra-city rail routes are considered equally significant in the movement of goods and people compared to road, air and sea transport. Railway infrastructure that is safe and reliable can help provide commodities to far-flung areas, allow for the general public to utilise a simple and cost-efficient way to travel across the country and ease the burden on highways as well.

A functional railway system would quite obviously allow for improved transportation, not to mention that the government would benefit from the revenue generated by an efficient and potentially profitable service. A concerted effort to improve railways in Pakistan is required if we are to ever head towards improvement in this sector. Otherwise, these grievous accidents will continue to be a part of our reality.