Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed Tuesday said Pakistan Railways has provided around Rs 142 million per year concessional tickets in different heads across the country under the pro-poor initiatives.

During meeting with Chairperson Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) Dr. Sania Nishtar here, he said Pakistan Railways has provided 50 percent concessional rates to students, persons with disabilities, senior citizens over 65 years, boy scouts and girl guides.

While 33 per cent concession was given to attendants of blind passengers and free travel to the senior citizens of 75 years and above for two journeys in a calendar year.

Sheikh Rashid said Pakistan Railways has always been at the forefront in providing travel facility to a clientele which was mostly the poor sections of the society.

Being a federal government owned public service entity, he said the fare structure of Pakistan Railways was prepared in line with the policies aimed at providing affordable travel facility to the people.

The minister said at present, the fare were even lower than the cost incurred by the organization for provision of such a facility leaving apart being commercially viable or profitable.

He said Pakistan Railways vending stalls policy was transformed from the year 2001 when competitive bidding was introduced and the welfare or passenger facilitation concept was changed with increasing potential earnings.

The minister said before 2001, there was a system to provide vending stalls at stations to widows of former railway employees or retired railway employees at “no profit no loss basis”.

Currently, he added, all Pakistan Railways stalls at stations were strictly given out through a competitive bidding procedure of open auction under Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules.

In the absence of any specific policy for allotting vending stalls at stations to the poor, it would not mean that the department has no pro-poor policy as the entire fare structure is based on facilitation through cheap travel, he added.

He said a five percent special quota for persons with disabilities has however been ascertained at the headquarter level in the vending stalls allotment over divisions which has been circulated by the office of Chief Commercial Manager, Pakistan Railways headquarter office.

The minister urged the BISP chairperson to extend the circle of beneficiaries to Pakistan Railways employees as well.