Fares for express, freight trains increased

Minister says cost of ML-1 project has gone up from $6.3m to $9m due to negligence of ex-PTI govt

Pakistan Railways has announced a hike of 10 and 15 percent, respectively, in fares for express and freight trains a week after a massive increase in fuel prices.

Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique made the announcement at a press conference at Railways Headquarters on Tuesday. The public utility will incur the additional cost of Rs8 billion due to the increase in diesel prices, he said, providing a reason for the fare increase. The fare for passenger trains, however, will remain unchanged. The minister held the PTI government responsible for delays in different projects, including the PR flagship Mainline-1 (ML-1), under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

The cost of the project, he claimed, had increased from $6.3 million in 2018 to $9 million at present. Rafique said several retired employees have not received their pension for two and a half. The minister said the management discussed different options to reduce the cost of ML-1 which included change in its design. The railway’s administration will take measures to ensure punctuality in train operations and their cleanliness, he said.

The railways have filed a review in land usage cases to seek permission from the court for the use of its surplus land for commercial activities, he said. Rafique said the railways deficit was Rs36.6 billion in the previous PML-N tenure and the revenue jumped from Rs18 billion to Rs50 billion in five years. During the PTI rule, he said, the PR income rose slightly (from Rs50 billion to Rs53 billion) and the deficit touched Rs37 billion. The RAILCOP (Railways Construction Pakistan Limited-a subsidiary of the PR) generated revenue of Rs400 million in the last PML-N tenure but it is now facing a Rs9 million deficit.

Separately, the minister said those involved in the rape of a woman passenger in Bahauddin Express would meet exemplary punishment. The PR, he announced, will provide a job to the victim. The PML-N leader claimed his party and allies took the responsibility to pull the country out of the crisis as a challenge. He claimed the caretaker setup was not a solution. “International lending agencies would not be ready to engage with the caretaker government and the country could have defaulted had the political parties opted to go for polls soon after the ouster of Imran Khan,” the minister said.

He said the political parties should follow the constitution and learn to tolerate each other. Referring to the continuing economic and political certainty owing to the agitation politics of Imran Khan, the minister said, “The country would be ungovernable if the situation remained the same.” The minister ruled out the hiring of new staff and transfers/postings on a political basis.

Iftikhar Alam is a correspondent writing on religion, politics, agriculture, and energy. He takes people on a rich journey through the culture of Punjab. He tweets @imiftikharalam and can be reached at iftikharalam@live.com.