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KARACHI: Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said on Monday that he wanted to give train system operations to private parties to improve efficiency and minimize corruption.

While talking to the media at his camp office here, the minister said, "Six passenger trains have been allotted to private parties today while 17 more trains may also be given to private parties."

He said some 500 freight coaches had already been given to a private party while 400 more coaches were being given to some other private parties.

Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said "half of Railways headquarters" was being shifted to Karachi from Lahore given the fact that the port city was the railways freight and passenger services hub.

"Lahore is only a debating club," he said.

The federal minister said that a $6.8 billion tender for the ML-1 rehabilitation project would be floated soon, and that it would revolutionize the railway services in Pakistan.

"The country will get massive economic benefit in the form of 150,000 jobs and significant surge in the freight business after conclusion of the ML-1 Project," remarked the minister.

Ninety percent of workers and engineers would be recruited from Pakistan while 10 percent would be Chinese.

Their salaries would be paid by China.

He said that preparation of KCR coaches was underway in Islamabad, and the KCR service would be revived very soon as per the directives of the Supreme Court.

"Rs1.8 billion out of Rs10.5 billion earmarked for the KCR project has been released, and 9 kilometers of tracks out of 14 kilometers in the planned first phase revival has been totally rehabilitated," said the minister.

He acknowledged that railways' lands had been encroached in connivance with some of the PR officials and its police. "Today, I am suspending some officials of Karachi who have been involved in illegal activities and malpractices," Rashid said adding that the Railways' lands were being recovered on the directions of the apex court.

Railways on this occasion released a post-partition KCR map, and the minister claimed that he had had a British-era map of the KCR which he would release on his next visit to Karachi.

To a query, he said no investment would be made on Railways tracks and signal system anymore because the entire system was being upgraded as part of the ML-1 rehabilitation project. "I would approach the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) if even a single penny was spent on the existing tracks," Rashid said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020