Pakistan Railways entire track across Pakistan could have been upgraded instead of $2 billion Orange Line train

Pakistan Railways entire track across Pakistan could have been upgraded instead of $2 billion Orange Line train

FAISALABAD: Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad said on Tuesday that 20 more VIP passenger trains would hit the rails soon.

“A tendering process is being initiated to upgrade 1,680km-long track of ML-2 and ML-4 in addition to dualization of the Faisalabad-Lahore and Sialkot tracks,” he announced while addressing the business community at the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI).

Rasheed said that the previous rulers had pushed the economy to the verge of collapse. “The present government had put the country in the right direction but it had to take bold and difficult decisions,” he continued.

The minister said FCCI was the first platform that had realised the importance of economic stability and had appreciated the decisions taken by Prime Minister Imran Khan and Finance Minister Asad Umar with regard to economic upliftment.

He lamented that the former rulers had spent $2 billion to launch 27km-long orange line train. “With the same amount, I could have laid a new track across Pakistan.”

Regarding the financial affairs of Railway, he said that Rs35 billion were required to pay pensions, Rs31 billion for salaries, Rs18 billion for oil and Rs25 billion to pay the loan installments.

“We have to repair the old and abandoned bogies to start 20 new trains. Now we are planning to launch yet another 20 new VIP and high-speed passenger trains,” he maintained.

He said that Pakistan Railway could start trains with a speed of 160km per hour after the completion of ML-1, adding that the speed of these trains could be enhanced up to 260km per hour in later phases. “Travel time between Lahore-Karachi would be reduced to 6-7 hours only.”

The minister noted that all over the world, passenger trains were not run for income generation but freight trains were meant to generate profits. “Pakistan is the only country where we are earning a handsome profit of Rs2 billion from the passenger trains,” he added.

He informed that Mohenjo-Daro Train was running successfully with an occupancy of 160 per cent, while the occupancy of Rehman Baba Train was 150 per cent.

“A new VIP ‘Jinnah Train’ would be launched between Lahore and Karachi from March 23. We are also planning to start ‘Sir Syed Train’ which could run between Faisalabad and Karachi,” he added.

Rasheed assured of starting more trains from Faisalabad and said that local investors could start these trains by paying the advance fare of 10 days only.

The minister said the private sector could also run trains by paying a reasonable rent for the track to Pakistan Railways, adding that two private trains had recently been started from Lahore and such trains could also be launched from Faisalabad on the same terms and conditions.

He assured of resolving the problems being confronted by the Faisalabad Dry Port (FDP) authorities.

Responding to a question, he said the Pakistan Railways was planning to start an online booking system to redress the alleged misappropriation in the booking of passenger trains.

Earlier, a one-minute silence was observed to pay tribute to Kashmiri martyrs in connection with the Kashmir Solidarity Day.

The meeting was also addressed by former minister and FDP Chairman Chaudhry Mushtaq Ali Cheema.