LAHORE

The Pakistan Railways has decided to operate more trains in passenger sector under the public-private partnership mode despite hard experience of Business Express.

At a press conference here on Friday, PR minister Khawaja Saad Rafique however avoided giving exact number of the trains and dates when the joint venture(s) will start. “We will soon operate few more trains with public-private partnership despite bitter experience of Business Express,” he told the reporters at PR head-quarter.

As per Railways’ claim, the outstanding dues towards the management of the Business Express—the first and only joint venture of the PR under private-public partnership—crossed Rs1 billion, which the private party constantly refusing to accept and pay. The Railways entered into the agreement with the private firm in August 2011.

As PR minister since June 2013, Khawaja Saad has repeatedly made claims for not sparing the private group and to get paid every penny due towards them. However, during Friday’s press conference, he seemed little helpless though he repeated his words: “They (owners of the Business Express) are well connected and powerful people. But, I’m clearing upon them that they would have to pay every penny of the department.”

Giving other details about PR performance, he said the department had witnessed Rs5.25 billion decline in its annual deficit—from Rs32.5b to Rs27.25b. To a question, he refused to give the date when the Railways would overcome the deficit and highlighted the public utility at least required $10 billion investment to come back on track. He vowed the department would soon get back its old glory. He said the PR generated revenue of around Rs32 billion against the target of Rs28 billion in year 2014-15. The number of locomotives in freight sector, he said, had increased from 10 to 80 within a year. The arrival of new 55 locomotives in result of an agreement with General Electric will start from September 2016, he said.

“The renovation of 116 railways station with the cooperation of NESPAK will start soon. Work on 75 level-crossing in Punjab will soon be completed,” he said and vowed to retrieve the all occupied land of the Railways across the country. He said the work on computerization of Railways land record had been started. He requested the provinces to transfer the Railways land to the department and said none of the province despite KPK had so far done this job despite repeated requests.

He expressed his hope about the restoration of ECO Train between Pakistan and Turkey via Iran this year. The agreement between the PR and Great Anatolian Logistic Company of Turkey had already been signed in this regard, he informed.

The passenger and freight train operation between Pakistan and India already continued via Wahga but the PR was considering the option to start goods train on Khokhrapar and Monabao track between the two countries, he said and added the passenger train already being operated on the route.

The minister claimed to end the corruption in the department at least on all upper posts. He said that no appointment would be made in the department without merit.