LAHORE: Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique on Tuesday said that all available resources were being utilised to restore the train services in flood affected areas, besides effectively exploring the revenue generation sources of the department to make it profitable.
Addressing a press conference at Pakistan Railways (PR) headquarters here, he said that efforts were afoot to restore railway services in the country, especially in flood-hit areas. He added that total losses of railways due to flash floods had been estimated at around Rs 525 billion, and railways employees were working day and night to minimise the losses.
The minister said that financial position of railways had badly been disturbed in the current fiscal year, adding that when the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) came to power, Pakistan Railways faced over Rs 47.5 billion worth of financial losses. However, a revenue of around Rs 60 million had been earned during 2021-22. He said that diesel prices were increasing extraordinarily, which was the main cause of oil bill expansion. He said that oil bill of railways, which was around Rs 20 billion during the 2021-22, had reached Rs 36 billion in 2022-23, and the trend would continue if diesel prices would not decrease. Kh Saad Rafique said that dollar fluctuation, oil prices and flash floods were the key challenges due to which railways faced hardship lately. He vowed that tools like collective efforts, determination and departmental strategy of cost-cutting were used to steer the railways out of crisis.
He said that railways income could be enhanced three times through commercial use of its property, adding that around six to seven billions of rupees annually could be earned through railways properties’ commercialisation. He mentioned that no railways land scandal had been surfaced during the last 10 years. He said that midterm and short-term property leasing would be introduced to increase revenue of the department, which would also ensure protection of the railways lands. The minister announced that private housing societies would deposit hefty amounts to get right of the way from the railways, adding that intending housing societies would have to deposit Rs 100 million before construction of underpasses at railways track, and it would also be responsible for maintaining, fencing and cleaning the premises of railways within the area of housing societies.
He said that freight operations fares should match the operational cost of the railways, adding that it would be higher than earlier, but not equal to the road transportation expenses. He asserted that loss-making trains could not be run in these circumstances. He said that the Quetta-Taftan international railway track had been restored after repair in the wake of floods and rain damages, adding that the income generated from the Queeta-Taftan track would be spent on the same track for maintenance and advancement of the track.
To overcome budget shortfall, the railways had moved a summery in the federal cabinet for approval of laying fiber optic along the railway track by the private companies, he said and added that transparent and competitive bidding would be held for the purpose which could enhance railways revenues. He said that strategic business plan to enhance revenues of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and Aviation would also be discussed during the next media briefing at Islamabad, adding that reform process was continuing in the PIA and change would be visible within next few months.