Release funds to railways: Zardari to government

October 18th, 2011 - 12:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Oct 18 (IANS) Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has told the government to release within a week funds to the cash strapped railways that has been unable to pay salaries and pensions.

Zardari was speaking at a meeting to discuss woes of the Pakistan Railways when he told the government to release funds within seven days for payment of salaries and pensions of the railway employees, who have been agitating against non-payment of salaries.

Farhatullah Babar, president’s spokesperson, said the meeting had been convened specially to examine proposals for salvaging Pakistan Railways with the help of private sector.

Private sector entrepreneurs were also invited to the meeting to discuss public-private partnership model for revamping railways, he said.

Zardari advised the government to arrange a loan of Rs.6 billion for locomotive repairs and purchase of new locomotives, reported Associated Press of Pakistan.

Railways Minister Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour said that due to non-availability of locomotives, freight trains had been suspended and the revenue from cargo transportation had come down from Rs.9 billion a year to almost zero at present.

He said cargo service was the most critical element of railways to generate finances not only to support itself but also to make profits.

The railways minister said that in 1950s and 1960s the five year plans saw it as a preferred mode of transportation with allocation of more than 60 percent of the funds set aside for transport sector. But this dwindled continually over the years, sliding to 20 percent in 1998-2005.

Bilour said half the locomotives were out of order, 86 percent bridges more than 100 years old, signalling system was obsolete, telecommunication system outdated and the track over-aged.

It was decided that a meeting would be held to firm up proposals of the private sector participation in revamping and restructuring of Pakistan Railways so as to turn it around into a profitable venture.

The proposals will be finalised within a month.

Zardari said Pakistan Railways was an area where there were great opportunities for public private partnership. He said locomotive rehabilitation, outsourcing of maintenance, commercialisation of passenger services and leasing of locomotives are some of the areas in which private sector can join hands with the public sector in a mutually beneficial partnership.

The president said regional linkages of Pakistan Railways to China through Khunjarab, to Afghanistan through Peshawar and Chaman and to Iran through Taftan were of immense importance from the connectivity point of view and from the socio-economic perspective.

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