In what was the third deadly train crash in Pakistan in the last four months, at least seven minors school students and driver of a rickshaw were killed after two rickshaws were hit by a train at an ungated Railway Crossing in Lodhran. Previously twenty people were killed and dozens injured when a train crashed into stationary coaches in the port city of Karachi. In September, at least four people were killed and 93 injured when an express train crashed into a freight train near the city of Multan in Punjab province.

With cumulative liabilities reaching 74 billion rupees, the state-owned enterprise has not delivered a profit in years. Plagued by corruption, mismanagement, lack of professional expertise, a dilapidated infrastructure, this public sector is insufficient to meet the demands of a burgeoning working class. To help move a nation of 180 million, Pakistan Railways has fewer than 500 locomotives of which only 20% are operational. The rest are either too old or too damaged to operate.

The state of Pakistan Railways has continued to deteriorate, putting itself in competition with the inefficient, mistake-prone, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). The tragic incident of flight PK-661 air crash, followed by engines catching fire, numerous flights facing delays due to technical difficulties, and most recently the resignation of a senior official on claims of manipulated revenue reports, reveal the wretched state of affairs the airline is entrenched in.

The common denominator in all these maladies is the flagging state-ownership that is financially, technologically and ethically crippling both. While privatisation will lead to higher fares and threaten to cut out the low-income segment of society, the state can play a proactive role in this regard by providing subsidies and low-income programs. The Railways, being the only affordable mode of transport for the toiling class as well as for freight, needs an immediate overhaul. Such horrifying casualties, which the Minister of Railways Saad Rafique blamed on the weather, are the result of a neglected sector that the state cannot afford to revive on its own.