The Pakistan Railway has suffered a loss of Rs 623 million due to en-route detention of trains. On account of failure of signals, electric instruments, power plants, coaches and prevision of HSD and lube oil, this cheapest form of transportation is paying a terrible price.

Documents have revealed that rule 39 (a) of general rules for Pakistan Railways with Subsidiary Rules provides that all ‘points, signals, electric instruments and other apparatus shall be kept in proper working order and the station masters or cabin staff shall report immediately to the authorities, any case in which the apparatus is defective and also when the defect has been rectified’. However, it had to bear a loss of Rs 2420 per minute in case of en-route detention of generally occurred due heavy rain and electric load shedding. Moreover, the entire procedure took sufficient time and caused extra consumption of fuel.

The Audit General of Pakistan has demanded that each heavy detention needs to be inquired and taken responsibility of, besides taking action against the persons found at fault. Despite such despondent losses, the Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique still claims that the government has made Pakistan Railways a ‘profitable organization with immense improvement, up gradation, and cultural change’. He also has the audacity to only blame the past regimes for not giving due attention for its improvement. Why did he not take strict action against those involved in any sort of corruption? He has held the portfolio since 2013; enough time for reform and improvement.

Pakistan Railways is still not only the cheapest yet safest mode of travel. Over the years, lack of attention, poor policies, increasing expenditures, misappropriation of funds, and nepotism and most recently, the floods have left the Railways with huge deficits- ones that are not being taken seriously. Had it kept this vital infrastructure in good physical and financial condition, its economy would have also grown much faster. Yet, vested interests have promoted road transport and roads over railways even for heavy duty transport of freight and passenger traffic in high density sectors. And there is no political will to reverse this trend.

With a rapid increase in the losses incurred and suspension of many trains over the last few years, the graph for Pakistan Railways is only going down and its future looks uncertain. It is only the policies of top management and leadership that will determine if this public state enterprise can turn into a profitable entity.