LAHORE - Pakistan Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique on Saturday inaugurated the new Allama Iqbal Express with upgraded coaches at Lahore Railway Station, saying all trains would be upgraded in the next three years under the up-gradation plan of the railways.

The new upgraded 9-up and 10-down Allama Iqbal Express train will run between Karachi and Sialkot via Narowal. The minister said that the railway had spent Rs1.5 billion from its own resources on up-gradation of trains and railway stations so far. Railways CEO Javaid Anwar Boobak, Advisor to Minister Anjum Pervaiz, Traffic AGM Abdul Hameed Razi and other senior officers were present.

Talking to the media, the minister said that rakes of Mehran Express, Khyber Mail and Akbar Bugti Express trains would be upgraded till June 2018. By taking steps regarding punctuality and with the provision of facilities to passengers, trust in the railways has been improved, he added. He said that two more dedicated tenure were needed for complete rehabilitation of railways, as it had become a destroyed department in 2013. But we have saved it from privatisation with the efforts of railways workers and a good team of officers, he added.

He said that so far 636 coaches of major trains had been upgraded while the state-of-the-art Okara railway station building would be inaugurated on Monday. It would be the second upgraded railway station which is being opened for the public after Sibbi railway station. He said that Raiwind junction railway station building was about to complete whereas upgradation work on Bahawalpur, Sahiwal, Nankana and Narowal railway stations was under way.

He appreciated the role of employees. He said that the Pakistan Railways would cross the limit of Rs50 billion revenue in June 2018. He said that expenditures of the department had been raised; however, there was a visible stability in the deficit and earnings. He said that construction work of the quarters for employees was at the last stage and the current regime had focused on lower staff instead of building houses for the officers.

He hoped the next elected government would also work with the same spirit for the railways. To a question about cursing the parliament by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and Sheikh Rashid, he said that all institutions had their respect as well the parliament, therefore using abusive language for the parliament by any politician meant cursing himself. Responding to a question about a proposed protest march by Pir Hameedudin Sialvi, he said that some people got de-tracked in the last phase of age, adding no one has right to test someone’s faith.

To another question, he said no one would resign before January 31 as whosoever would do so, he would be exposed in the by-elections. About work on Main Line-1 under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the minister said that the railways administration did not want any haste in upgradation of ML-1. Chinese are our friends but we have to be careful in signing any agreement with them. That’s why a delegation of four high-level officers are on making negotiations with the Chinese side for and only those decisions would be made in larger interest of Pakistan and railways, he added. He said that the PR was only interested in loans with nominal mark up and long grace period which could be returned easily.