ISLAMABAD           -          Federal Minister for Railway Sheikh Rasheed on Saturday said that 34 trains have been suspended in view of the increasing number of cases of COVID-19 across the country that would cost loss of Rs2.35 billion to the Pakistan Railways.

Addressing a press conference here, he said that 34 trains will stop running until mid of Ramazan month as the number of people travelling has reduced amid an outbreak of coronavirus in the country.

Sharing details, he informed that some 12 trains would stop running from March 22 (today), which include Khushal, Shah Latif and Ravi while the rest of the 34 trains will stop working from midnight on March 24.

He said that it was difficult task to manage around 2,00,000 passengers. The minister informed that Pakistan Railways would suffer loss of around Rs2.35 billion due to the closure of trains in the country.

However, he has clarified that no employees of the Railways department will be fired during this time. Sheikh Rasheed urged people to not travel unless necessary. He said that he was not in favour of lockdown in the country.

However, Prime Minister Imran Khan would take decision about lockdown in the country to control spread of COVID-19, he added.

Rasheed has also appreciated the role of political parties in prevailing situation. He said that he had asked the Federal Cabinet as well Prime Minister that federal government should pay the pensions of retired employees of the railways department.

The railway department could not afford to pay salaries and pensions due to the financial constraints. The financial health of Pakistan Railways would improve if the federal government starts paying pensions to the retired employees of railways, he added. 

The minister said that Pakistan Railway has refunded Rs. 800 million to the passengers so far. Furthermore, other passengers have been given an option to either take a refund or avail the ticket in another train in the same class.

Rasheed said that National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has promised to provide scanners and protective gears for better scanning of passengers traveling through railways.

The minister informed that government had also installed thermal scanners at different stations of railways to check the COVID-19. The 22 trains whose operations are being suspended from March 25 include Jinnah Express (Lahore to Karachi to Lahore), Sir Syed Express (Rawalpindi to Karachi), Bolan Mail (Quetta to Karachi), Mohenjo Darro Express (Kotri to Rohri), Thal Express (Rawalpindi to Multan), Marvi Express (between Mirpur Khas and Khokhropar), Musa Pak (between Lahore and Multan), Chenab Express (be­tween Sirgodha and Lala Musa), Summon Sirkar (be­tween Hyderabad and Badeen), Faisalabad Express (between Multan and Faisalabad), and Faisal Express (between Lahore and Faisalabad).