LAHORE – Amid the fears that Business Express is failing to attract passengers and the owner company of the train is turning into defaulter of the Railways, Senator Zafar Iqbal Chaudhary, the CEO of the Business Express, is not only confident about the success of the project but said the management will add more coaches with the train in coming days.

However, it was learnt that the Express train left Lahore for Karachi on Friday by taking on board only 178 passengers while it could accommodate 486 in its nine coaches.  “We are paying to the Railways on daily basis and we will continue this service in the better interest of the country,” said Zafar Iqbal while talking to TheNation on Friday.

The Business Express is the country’s first non-stop train running between Punjab and Sindh capitals with private public partnership between the PR and M/s Four Brothers International (Pvt) Ltd. Some officials of the PR seeking anonymity said that Four Brothers is delaying payment in violation of the agreement as it paid about Rs10 million to the Railways against dues of Rs21 million.

It is learnt that a meeting of PR management was also held at the Railways Headquarters on Friday to discuss the matter related to the delay in payment by the company. However, the meeting was not officially confirmed. The PR General Manager Rana Saeed Akhtar was always in favour of public private partnership and claimed that the utility could be brought back on its track only by the cooperation of private sector.

According to him, government was not in position of providing financial backup to the cash-stripped utility in these days. However, the majority of the Railways officers, on the other side, are not in the favour of this joint venture. They said that private company has not invested in the project as was pledged in the agreement.

“The train management has already introduced two classes (Business and Budget) just after five days of its inauguration by the Prime Minister at Lahore Railways Station. Now the management is considering to offer economy class with no air-conditioned facility,” said an official. “The management has already dropped different facilities for the passengers and if the project continue with the same pattern, it is feared that it might  badly fail,” the officer added.

It is a common consideration among the majority of the officers that government is not interested in Railways and want to get rid of the utility by selling it out to private companies.

Zafar, however, rebuffed all the ‘propaganda’ and confident in saying that train will prove a milestone in the Railways’ history, adding that negative propaganda is being promoted by some ‘mafia’ which does not want flourishing the public utility. He said that so far none of the passengers had lodged any complain. He hoped the passengers’ occupancy would increase in coming days, adding that they would add more coaches with train in future. He said that the private-public partnership was being adopted in the entire world.