LAHORE - Lahore-Karachi Double Track will be completed by March 2013 while two more trains under Public Private Partnership are being started soon.

This was stated by General Manager Operations Pakistan Railways Junaid Qureshi while speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thursday. LCCI President Farooq Iftikhar, in his opening remarks pointed out a number of issues behind the deterioration of Pakistan Railways.

LCCI former Vice President Aftab Ahmad Vohra, Executive Committee Members Amjad Chaudhry, Mian Zahid Javaid and Tanvir Ahmad Sufi also spoke on the occasion. Chief Traffic Manager, Dryports, Altaf Hussain, Additional General Manger Asad Ahsan and Imtiaz Hussain Rizvi also attended the meeting.

Junaid Qureshi said that not a single locomotive has been added to Railways fleet since 2008. He said that the Railways is ready to provide track facility to private sector if it wants to run its own locomotives. He said that Track Access Policy is likely to be finalised soon as a meeting to this regard is being held today (Friday). About trade with India, he said that the Railways is willing to enhance free day demurrage period from existing 24 hours to 48 hours.

He said that the Railways is fast heading towards revival as a number of steps are being taken to turn it into a profitable institution. He said that the Railways earned Rs 650 million more than what it earned last year.

He said that fuel and utility bills are eating up a bigger portion of Federal government funding to Railways. He said that since 1995 the fuel prices registered a surge of 800 per cent while Railways made a raise of 105 per cent of freight train fares and 70 per cent in the fares of passenger trains.

On the pointation of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the GM agreed that Mughalpura Dryport needs uplift on urgent basis and would be done at the earliest to facilitate the businessmen and enhance traffic.

Speaking on the occasion, the LCCI President Farooq Iftikhar said that the business community is very much concerned with the present state of Pakistan Railways. Although many public sector enterprises are deteriorating due to poor performance and bad governance, but Railways is one of the crucial sectors that affects the business community directly.

The LCCI President said that the political interference coupled with poor maintenance of tracks, locomotives, coaches, bridges and mismanagement at a wide scale are the major causes of failure of Pakistan Railways.

He said that train is an important source of transportation throughout Pakistan and it used to carry huge cargo in Pakistan. At present, there is hardly any assurance about the availability of sufficient cargo wagons. In tough economic conditions, it has become very hard for businessmen to maintain our competitive advantage both in internal and external trade. The movement of shipments through train is considered safe, economical and quick.

Lahore Dryport, Mughalpura, was sufficiently serving to the requirements of upcountry businessmen but now due to suspension of cargo trains, the operations at Lahore dry port have reduced to negligible level.

He urged the top management of Railways to take immediate steps for improving the deteriorating situation.

He stressed the need for Central Traffic Control system to avoid accidents and also improve the efficiency of trains.

He said that Pakistan Railways has been left with a fleet of around 100 locomotives to run its entire operation, including 200 train and freight services. Shortage of over 400 locomotives will surely lead to further breakdowns of power vans in midways.

It is worth mentioning that plan of Lahore-Karachi Double Track was initiated by former General Manager (Operation) Rana Saeed Akhtar. He was not only pioneer of this project but he supervised himself a large chunk of project’s completion. Likewise, running passengers trains under public-private partnership was implemented following his innovative idea.

Qureshi further said that there is demurrage free facility for 5 days on the consignments brought by train in Railways godowns from India. But at Lahore Dry Port, demurrage free facility is available for one day only. It is hardly possible for one to get all the formalities done in a day. The same demurrage free facility for 5 days at Lahore Dry Port be allowed without any further delay.