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KARACHI: Covid-19 pandemic coupled with the recent record-breaking monsoon rainfalls in Sindh have badly affected the freight train operation - the economic lifeline of Pakistan Railways (PR), sources said.

Only three to five out of total 15 freight trains in PR's fleet are currently being operated per day from the port city due to severe loading issues at the marshalling yards which remained inundated with water for several days after the rain spells.

Passenger trains are also being suspended due to occupancy issues, resulting in to huge revenue losses to the already ailing oldest public transport entity of the country. "A Lahore bound Karachi Express remained suspended for consecutive two days (Monday and Tuesday)." they said.

Tracks were damaged in Jhimpir after 27 August rainfall that prompted the PR to further suspend some freight trains to ease out burden on the old track. However now they have been rehabilitated.

Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid was eager to enhance freight train business. On June 21, 2019, he vowed to operate 20 trains by the end of same year, but to no avail.

Meanwhile the new-appointed CEO/Sr GM Pakistan Railways Nisar Ahmad Memon visited the divisional superintendent office Karachi on Tuesday and chaired a meeting regarding operational and freight issues confronted by the Karachi division particularly after the record-breaking rainfalls last month.

He directed the officers for working in full coordination with each other and devise a comprehensive strategy for achieving fiscal targets this year. "Concerted efforts and hardworking are required from the officers of PR to achieve the revenue targets as the department's revenue generation has declined in the last few months because of two-month suspension of passenger train operation followed by three months of Covid-19 SOP governed train operation" remarked the CEO.

The meeting was attended by Divisional Superintendent PR Karachi Arshad Salam Khattak, Managing Director PRFTC Ghulam Dastagir Baloch, Chief Mechanical Engineer (Carriage and Wagons) Ghulam Qasim and all the deputy DSs and divisional officers of Karachi division.

Matters pertaining to administrative domain like recruitment, outstanding payments etc were discussed in depth with the visiting CEO who has relinquished the charge of DS Karachi fewer than five months back.

Railways' Mazdoor Union president Malik Muqaddar Zaman expressed displeasure over the decline in freight service and frequent suspension of passenger trains. He alleged that PR administration is not ready to put the department on the track of development. He urged the Railways minister to enhance trains operations to facilitate commuters.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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