The ordeals of Pakistan Railway (PR) are not ending anytime soon. In a collision of a passenger train, the Akbar Express, with a freight train in Sadiqabad yesterday morning resulted in the death of, at least, 16 people and left 84 commuters injured. The chances are that the death toll will rise. It is the second accident in recent months under the new ministry headed by Sheikh Rasheed.

The leaders of the ruling party were quick to issue condolence messages to the affected ones and their families. The opposition parties quickly jumped to the conclusion and asked for the resignation of the railway minister. Is the callousness of both sides any surprise? No, it’s not surprising at all. It is now an established norm that our political parties, instead of working together to solve an issue of utmost urgency, cash on tragedies such as the one happened in Sadiqabad. That said, it is also essential to realise the ruling party in Naya Pakistan that in less than a month it is the second accident. Only last month, three people died and multiple injured in Hyderabad train collision. What is Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI) plan for preventing such accidents and tragedies?

Merely expressing grief will not solve the issues of PR. Nor will PM’s instructions to the minister “to take emergency steps to counter decades of neglect of railway infrastructure” will take PR out of the crisis it is in. Even today, the majority of ordinary people prefer trains for commuting purposes as it remains economical compared to other modes of commuting and transportation. Despite knowing this fact, the state has rarely taken any concrete steps to modernise PR.

And it is not rocket science to understand the causes of PR’s decline. According to an official of PR, the department went down the decline after it lost its monopoly over the cargo business. The PR official maintained cargo was the primary source of revenue generation for PR. The department used revenue coming from the cargo business to meet all its requirements. However, with the launch of the National Logistic Cell (NLC), PR lost its cargo business.

It is about time for the state to take some hard measures. PR can be taken out of the present crisis if the government focuses on the real issue. If the cargo business is brought back to PR, it will start generating enough money to modernise itself. Revenues generated from cargo business will allow PR to overcome all the problems – poor condition and lack of maintenance of locomotives, lack of funds, technical staff or their capacity business.