Lahore [Pakistan], January 2 (ANI): Pakistan Railways (PR) is in dire straits as its passenger and freight train affairs are being run with just a three-day oil inventory, reported Dawn.
One of the senior officials of PR said, "Squeezing of oil reserves for train operation from one month to a couple of days clearly shows that the PR's financial situation is really in great trouble," requesting Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique to pay attention towards the crucial issues and resolve them on priority.
"He (the minister) should also launch an inquiry into freight wagons' bidding affairs that discourage the private sector. In recent tenders of outsourcing wagons and constructing freight terminals under public-private partnership mode, the decisions are yet to be taken despite a passage of four months or so," he pointed out.
Notably, a couple of days back the oil stock was only for one day, forcing the railways to limit its freight operations, reported Dawn.
Meanwhile, various assets of the railways, including the rolling stock, locomotive and infrastructure, continue to be underutilized due to inefficiency, negligence, and lack of will and decision-making allegedly on the part of senior officials. Political instability and unrest triggered by the political parties and other stakeholders are adding fuel to fire.
"A couple of days ago, the railways were left with only one-day oil stock across the country. This forced the authorities to reduce the freight train operations, especially from Karachi and Lahore. It has never happened in the history of PR. I think the railways will default if the government continues ignoring the department," a senior official source warned on Sunday.
The official said the financial condition of the department has almost reached its collapse as it has no money to clear around Rs 25 bn liabilities as gratuity for a number of officials/officers who retired within the last year or so. Similarly, he revealed, the department is not even able to clear the monthly salaries of the employees and the pension of the retired officials, reported Dawn.
Those supposed to receive salaries and pensions on the first date of every month are getting salaries after a gap of 15 to 20 days.
Recently, the train drivers decided to stop the trains and hold protests/strikes across the country as they didn't receive their salary even on Dec 20. Later on, they called off the strike after they were paid their salaries in two instalments.
"You can now imagine the PR's situation well," the official added.
According to him, the department's financial health was better in the 2017-18 fiscal year and before as its annual freight revenue had reached a figure of Rs2 0 bn per annum, including the earnings from dedicated coal operation from Karachi to Yousafwala (Sahiwal).
However, it started dropping gradually later and now it has shrunk to Rs16bn approximately, including the earnings from the Karachi-Sahiwal coal transportation operation, which has been reduced due to the import of coal from Afghanistan, reported Dawn.
The official said the situation of passenger train operations, ranging between Rs 20 to Rs 25 bn approximately, is also declining despite the arrival of new coaches from China. Moreover, he added, the recent floods in Sindh and Balochistan also affected the operations, bringing the revenue down.
Due to underutilization of the rolling stock, locomotive and infrastructure, the PR has miserably failed to generate and increase revenue to overcome the financial crunch and it seeks financial help from the federal government in a bid to meet its increasing expenses, reported Dawn.
Under the policy, the PR is required to invite and engage the private sector in its operation, especially freight operations. But in the last few years, it failed to do so for the reasons best known to the authorities concerned.
When contacted, PR Chief Executive Officer Salman Sadiq Sheikh admitted the facts related to the severe financial crisis the PR is passing through these days, reported Dawn.
"We are running our trains with a three-day oil inventory as we don't have money to maintain it for a month. The PR's financial condition, like other departments, moves side by side with the government's status that is also facing a similar situation," he explained. (ANI)