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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Progress in Pakistan Railways

 PR to resume ‘cargo express’ from Sept 2

 The operation of cargo express was thrice suspended as railways authorities asked the contractors to increase payments and invited fresh tenders. — Photo by AFP

LAHORE: After a lapse of more than three years, the Pakistan Railways (PR) will resume its cargo express train between Lahore’s Badami Bagh station and Karachi from Sept 2.
Initially, the cargo train between Badami Bagh and Karachi was started in 1992 by contracting out its idle cargo wagons to private parties on round-trip per wagon rate basis. After a year, the train route was extended up to Gujranwala on the demand of the business community.
An official of the railways commercial wing told Dawn that the daily earnings of the 27-wagon cargo express could have been much more than any passenger train being operated under the public-private-partnership on the same route.
“The Shalimar Express is paying Rs1,751,934, Night Coach Rs1,731,308 and Business Express Rs2,227,618 per day to the railways while the recently launched container service is not meeting its operational cost yet.”
The railways is losing at least Rs3.15 million per day by not operating the cargo train, the official said on condition of anonymity.
The operation of the cargo train was suspended on April 13, 2010, without any reason. The contractors had offered to enhance the per wagon rate, but railway authorities preferred inviting fresh tenders. In the re-bidding process, railways insisted on Rs96,600 round-trip charges per wagon against the Rs80,000 offered by the contractors.
The operation of cargo express was thrice suspended as railways authorities asked the contractors to increase payments and invited fresh tenders. The affected contractors moved the Lahore High Court and got relief.
In pursuit of the orders of Justice Shujaat Ali Khan, the then GM (Operations) submitted under his Arbitration Award (dated July 10, 2013) that the PR would introduce this train on availability of locomotives preferably from the first week of September 2013. In the first phase, the cargo train was to be operated twice a week and later on a daily basis.
However, instead of implementing the Arbitration Award, the railways started adopting delaying tactics holding meetings with contractors and making false promises, said the PR official. In the first meeting on Aug 27, 2013, a committee of PR marketing, commercial and accounts officers asked the contractors to enhance the freight charges to Rs130,000 per wagon roundtrip and promised to resume train operations immediately.
In the second meeting, on Sept 3, the railway authorities informed the contractors that the trains operation would restart from Nov 1, 2013. In the third meeting on Oct 22, the PR authorities reiterated their resolve to resume the operation of cargo express initially once in a week and to increase its frequency on availability of more locomotives.
“Since Jan 10, 2011, the PR has been losing a huge amount daily and the railways high-ups seemed least interested in utilising the available resources of the organisation to generate revenue,” said the official.
Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2014