LAHORE - Spread over 192 acres, the PR workshop - Pakistan Railways’ Carriage and Wagon Shops - at Mughalpura has lost its past glory over times.

Established in 1908 to prepare and overhaul coaches for passenger and freight trains of the North Western Railways, the then mighty and state-of-the-art workshop was transferred to Pakistan in 1947.

“I witnessed a great time here in '80s. There was more than 10,000 staff working to meet the railways’ demand of coaches,” said an old employee of the workshop.

The workforce is reduced to 3,300 in past 30 years. The demand of the coaches both repaired and fresh from the department has also come down.

“Shortage of locomotives affected the periodic overhauling of coaches. If there is lesser number of locomotives, the repair work of coaches will become slower,” said an engineer at the workshop.

Every coach needs a periodic overhauling after 15 months. Decline in the number of locomotives from 500 plus to below 100 in the past affected the periodic overhauling of the coaches. It also led to the piling up of coaches in the workshop as there was no requirement outside.

“The present team of the railways led by Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, however, brings a new ray of hope for the department,” said the engineer who did not like to be named.

“The pace of the work at the workshop was stepped up with the induction of new locomotives in the freight and passenger sectors.

We now provide 70 to 80 passenger coaches and 250 to 300 freight coaches every month to the department after their proper overhauling.”

Around 300 coaches are still parked in the workshop. Majority of them could be overhauled and included in the railways fleet. But it all depends on the demand plus the inflow of funds.

"Like Pakistan Railways its workshop also needs finances,” the engineer highlighted.

During a visit to the workshop by this correspondent, it was learnt that shortage of funds, ageing machinery, shortage of technical and security staff are the main issues the workshop has been facing.

A majority of the working staff are near to the age of retirement. The workshop desperately needs fresh guys having electrical and mechanical diploma.

“The management must hire new staff so that they could be trained properly before the retirement of the present staff,” he suggested.

As for the state of machinery, he said, it has become outdated and needs replacement. The modern and latest equipments are required at every unit within the workshop including Brass Shop, Train Light unit, Paint Shop, Wheel and Recondition Shop, Motor Shop, Machine Shop and Black Smith, Saw Mill, Wood Machine unit, Timber Store, Spring Shop, Reclamation Yard and at other units.

The theft of scrap was an important issue in the past. However, it is being claimed that the same has been controlled during the present tenure.

However, official sources say, taking care of the vast lands of the department by the available railways police staff is a difficult task. Only 22 cops are available at present against the sanctioned strength of 116.