Pakistan’s railway minister has proposed the sale of railway land to end nearly Rs 37 billion deficit and requested Prime Minister Imran Khan to promulgate an ordinance for the purpose.
Pakistan Railways currently faces a deficit of Rs 37 billion as induction of new trains and high expenses take a toll on the state-owned entity’s revenue. With costs running high, and several Railways’ assets unable to add to the company’s bottom line, the entity has run into losses for years now, The Express Tribune reported.
“The prime minister has sought details of the precious land owned by the railways in different cities within a fortnight,” Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad said on Saturday.
Ahmad, the newly-appointed minister for railways, said all the land, which belongs to Pakistan Railways, would be retrieved from those who had grabbed it as the state-owned entity owns a huge amount of land but it is either been encroached or has not been used commercially.
However, “no action will be taken against dwellers of shanties on the railway land because of directives from the prime minister”.
Describing the condition of Pakistan Railways’ hospitals as deplorable, the minister said he was contemplating involving the private sector for bringing about improvement in the organisation but without compromising the rights of railway employees.
“We plan to run these hospitals under the public-private partnership mode. We are even ready to hand over control of these hospitals to the private sector on ‘as-it-is’ basis,” he added.
Ahmad said that talks were underway to hand over control of all railway hospitals to the army medical corps. Talking about freight operations, the minister said Pakistan Railways was working internally to correct its freight business. “Railways will try to improve things in the freight sector, we will wait for a month to see these improvements, later we will involve the private sector,” he said, adding it would include opening one-window operations to facilitate people.
The minister said the railways had planned to run 12 to 15 additional freight trains. He sought government’s directives for Pakistan State Oil (PSO) and other state-run organisations to use train services for their cargo delivery.
He said 318 acres of land would be acquired by Pakistan Railways in Gwadar while train services would be initiated for border posts of Taftan and Torkham to facilitate passengers and freight traffic.