ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari Wednesday called for re-orienting the Pakistan Railways and to emulate the successful strategies of neighbouring countries to revitalize this important mode of transportation.
Chairing a high-level meeting here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, the President said in view of the importance of railway in the economic development, social integration and as a strategic asset, all efforts must be undertaken to support this sector and improve its image among the masses.
The President said revitalization of the Pakistan Railways was also essential to materialize the vision of enhancing inter and intra connectivity of the region which was the key to socio-economic development of the country and the region.
The President also enquired about the operations of Business Express Train between Lahore and Karachi, on the basis of Public Private Partnership, and the Shalimar Express.
He emphasized upon the need to induct private sector in all railway related business, including establishment of dry ports, running of freight trains and commercialization of railway assets.
He also advised the government to consider various options to bail out the Railways from its financial crunch.
The high-level meeting was informed that a feasibility report was being prepared for the involvement of private sector in the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul container train service to make it a lucrative cargo service to Europe.
The meeting, which was attended by Finance Minister Dr Hafeez Sheikh, Law Minister Maula Baksh Chandio, Privatization Minister Ghous Bux Khan Maher, Railways Minister Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, Secretary General M. Salman Faruqui, was informed that the Turkish transport experts have been tasked to prepare the feasibility report for the Gul Train.
The team with the involvement of Ministry of Railways has held a meeting with Karachi Stock Exchange and Federation of Chamber of Commerce and would be visiting Pakistan to further deliberate and finalize the feasibility report.
Issues relating to Pakistan Railways, the restructuring and revitalization plan and the progress made in the Gul Train were discussed during the meeting that was also attended by senior officials of the departments concerned, besides Arif Habib, Chairman of Arif Habib Group of Companies.
Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was also present during the meeting.
Minister for Railways Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour briefed the meeting about the situation of Pakistan Railways and the strategies being pursued to cope with the challenges.
He said the shortage of locomotives was the main issue facing the Pakistan Railways as the available locomotives were prone to frequent failures.
He said a crisis management programme has been put in place whereby the task force has been constituted to explore possibility of repairing locomotives in collaboration with the private sector as well as hiring and leasing from the foreign countries.
He said Pakistan Railways was endeavouring to attract private investment to shore up its declining resources through establishment of dry ports and operation of passenger trains.
It was also considering outsourcing of ticketing and parceling, updating financial and cost accounting system, introducing track access policy to encourage private sector to run own trains and restructuring of Railways to corporatize Railways culture.
He suggested the need for a national transport policy laying down the role of railway and road to rationalize the allocation of funds. He also suggested that the government may consider financially bailing out the Railways so as to enable its revitalization.