Private sector asked to invest in railway infrastructure

— Sheikh Rasheed singles out train stations across the country as a good investment option

LAHORE: Pakistan Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed on Saturday invited the private sector to invest in railway infrastructure for its renovation and betterment.

Chairing a meeting of the Pakistan Railway officials, Rasheed singled out train stations across the country as a good investment option. The minister also urged officials to ensure availability of clean drinking water at railway stations and passed other directives aimed at improving services and efficiency.

The federal minister laid emphasis on facilitating the consumers through a ‘one window’ facility for cargo operations so the “people sending cargo through railways don’t have to visit the stations repeatedly.”

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Addressing the media after his meeting, the Pakistan Railways minister said he would personally request Prime Minster Imran Khan for issuance of an ordinance for the sale of Pakistan Railways land to overcome its deficit.

Rasheed said that the Prime Minister had already sought a report regarding the railway land within 15 days.

He said the prime minister’s approval would be sought for recruitment of 23,000 new employees in the Pakistan Railways. About 10,000 skilled employees were needed on urgent basis for improvement of services, he added.

“Unfortunately, the former government had spent huge amounts on the renovation of railway stations,” he said, lamenting that the job could have been done with a lesser amount, but about Rs400 million was spent on each station.

The federal minister said, “We will bring private partners and builders for the renovation and upgradation of railway stations.”

He said the performance of railway hospitals was very poor, and they would be handed over to private sector on public-private partnership basis. “I am in touch with the Army Medical Corps administration in this regard so that they may take over the charge of the hospitals and better treatment facilities could be provided to the PR employees at economical rates,” the minister added.

Sheikh Rasheed said two more upgraded trains, including Moenjodaro Express and Rohi Express, would become operation soon, adding that the main focus of the current railway administration would be on improving the freight sector as it was its lifeline. “One or two freight trains will be privatized on test basis for the betterment of the freight sector,” he added.

To a question, the minister said the prime minister had appreciated his work, promising that there will be “a visible change in the railway within 100 days”.

He said the prime minister had been requested to revise one scale up of the railway labourers. The minister said the facilities of WiFi and tracking system in trains would be provided in 100 days.

To another question, he said no slum settlements on the railway land would be disturbed on the direction of the prime minister.

The federal minister said the blind and other disabled persons, with their wheelchairs in the luggage van, could travel by train free of charge. Moreover, one helper of the disabled person could also travel at half fare with him/her, he added.

To another question, he said new trains would be operated in those areas where road transport facility was not available. Later, the minister visited the Lahore Railway Station to inspect the track of newly introduced train Rawalpindi Railcar.

It is pertinent to mention that the railway minister had announced that the department would provide Rs100 million annually as funds for the construction of Diamer Bhasha and Mohmand dams.

The federal minister had said that two committees have been formed to maximise performance, adding that railway projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would be re-evaluated by an evaluation committee of the department.

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