Lahore: Federal Minister of Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique has invited the private sector to run freight trains and asked business chambers to coordinate to make the offer equally beneficial for the business community, Pakistan Railways (PR) and the economy in general.

“Public-private partnership will help revive this public entity,” Rafique said while referring to the state-run rail company.

Speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on Monday, he wooed private-sector investors to come forward and do business with the railways.

Pointing out that a number of trains were being outsourced, he said under the public-private partnership model, the highest bid of Rs1.80 billion had been given for running the Shalimar Express whereas PR would get Rs1.14 billion more compared to the previous agreement for the same train service.

 “Pakistan Railways is free of mafia and political influence as nepotism, corruption and undue favour destroy national institutions. Best leadership has been developed, which is playing a fundamental role in developing this national strategic asset,” the minister declared.

PR revenues were rising considerably as it earned Rs36.58 billion in financial year 2015-16 compared to the target of Rs32 billion, he said.

A plan has been framed for the manufacturing of electric-diesel locomotives at Pakistan Locomotives Factory of PR. Special attention is also being paid to land management and land record is being computerised.

“Only the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has transferred railway land in the wake of court orders; we expect Balochistan government to follow suit,” Rafique said, cautioning that if Punjab and Sindh governments did not cooperate, he would not hesitate to go to court.

Speaking on the occasion, LCCI President Abdul Basit pointed out that in the recent past, PR was on the verge of collapse, but now the situation was quite good. “Still a lot of work has to be done,” he said.

Basit suggested that rail tracks should be revamped in order to enhance the average speed of trains while the Central Traffic Control System should also be upgraded to stave off untoward incidents.

He called for keeping operational engines and power vans, which were standing in workshops, in good working condition as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would add to PR’s work load.

He emphasised that service charges should be uniform at all dry ports, which would enhance PR revenues.

Basit said public-private partnership could help resolve railway issues quickly, therefore, it should outsource maximum operations to the private sector as was the case in many other countries.

“Security arrangements in PR warehouses should be foolproof as a number of LCCI members have complained about theft at the T-10 shed at Wagah border,” he said.

PR is one of the largest institutions of the country and it is the most important source of passenger and industrial goods movement.

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