LAHORE - Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique yesterday announced to hold an inquiry into import of Chinese locomotives through Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) following surfacing of severe under-frame cracks in some engines. The Pakistan Railways (PR) halted the operation of faulty locomotives bearing losses of millions of rupees per day. The cash-strapped public utility cannot claim the compensation against suspension of operation from the company under the agreement.

The locomotives (63) had been imported from a Chinese company CSR ZIYANG under an agreement signed in June 2013. Their last consignment reached in Pakistan in February 2015. The 63 locomotives are other than 75 faulty locomotives those were imported in 2008 from a Chinese firm DEC/DALIAN. The PML-N government had blacklisted DEC DALIAN but continued purchase agreement with CSR ZIYANG. Countrywide media Sunday reported emergence of cracks in some one dozen engines supplied by CSR.

The locomotives are being said under-warranty and Chinese engineers are arriving in Pakistan tonight (Monday) to further examine faults. The minister in an emergency press conference at Railways headquarters on Monday clarified that the PR had signed agreement for import of locomotives in previous government tenure. Earlier, he held a meeting with the management on the issue.

Kh Saad admitted that railway engineers had noticed faults in 16 locomotives of 2,000 horse-power and halted their operation. He added the Chinese engineers were arriving in Pakistan and would face media on the issue.  Some engineers of the department, during background discussions with The Nation, put question mark on the performance of the remaining locomotives which were operational. “We fear they (engines) would all stop working in coming summer season,” said an engineer seeking anonymity.

Kh Saad defended his position when asked why he went ahead with the Chinese firm for import of locomotives knowing the companies’ past reputation.  “I held repeated meetings with our engineers and Chinese on locomotives and we all decided to go ahead. They (Chinese) were already paid Rs2.5 billion when I took charge as minister. They (Chinese) ensured us perfection,” he said.

He also added that the Railways was using Chinese rolling stock for years and found no complaint in it. “But we will conduct an inquiry into the whole matter. The engineers who had examined the locomotives before import would be questioned.” On the occasion, the minister also announced to establish research and development cell and a designing cell in the mechanical department of the Railways to avoid such issues in future. He also announced to conduct third-party validation into future purchase agreements of the Railways.

To a question, the minister asked the PIA employees to call of their protest in “interest of the country”. He, however, was silent when asked why he shouldn’t be given charge of PIA too as he made positive changes in the deficit-hit Railways. Kh Saad Rafique later inaugurated the refurbished Business Express at Lahore Railway Station. The PR had increased the number of coaches and introduced modern facilities in the train running between Lahore and Karachi after taking control of the same from a private party.