PM directs restructuring of Railways on modern lines

Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday directed the Ministry of Railways to restructure Railways on modern and commercial lines to make it a viable financial entity.

He said the root cause of operational inefficiency could be addressed by dualization as well as improvement of the railway track, enhancement of goods transportation and improvement in passengers’ service.

Chairing a high-level meeting to review progress of the implementation of Cabinet decision on restructuring of Pakistan Railways here at the ministry, the Prime Minister called for changing mindset of the officials to enhance operation efficiency through good governance and to make it a profit earning entity.

He asked the Minister of Railways and the Finance Minister to work out a long term approach to improve operation efficiency and financial viability.

The Prime Minster, in his opening remarks, observed that in the 21st century, Pakistan needs a cheap, efficient, reliable and secure mode of communication for millions of passengers and movement of goods.

He urged the Pakistan Railways to reclaim its old glory to become a preferred mean of travelling for the common man. To achieve this goal, he added, the Pakistan Railways must under-go a total transformation.

He said the Railways needs modern, faster, safer and reliable, infrastructure and rolling stock. Being a public service utility, it should adopt service delivery and customer satisfaction as its guiding motto.

The Prime Minister said the Ministry of Railways is one of the most important ministries of the Federal Government and Pakistan Railways is a historical asset as well as a strategic entity which played an important role in socio-economic development of the country, he added.

He observed that it provided the much needed communication lines for transportation of people and goods across the country.

The Prime Minister said Pakistan Railway was once the cheapest and the most reliable mode of transport but today it is a liability rather than an asset.

He said the government could not afford to throw good money after the bad money as it is facing serious financial management challenges like rehabilitation and reconstruction of flood affected areas and security related expenditures.

He assured that the government would, however, like to do as much as it can to revive Pakistan Railways yet the latter should first put up a genuinely self-help effort and display performance improvement to qualify for financial assistance from the government.

The Prime Minister said last year the Federal Cabinet set up the Cabinet Committee on Restructuring of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) to ensure good governance and reduce their losses and Pakistan Railways was one of the SOEs selected for the first phase of restructuring.

“Much time has passed and I have yet to see tangible results on ground,” he said.

The Prime Minister urged the Cabinet Committee on Restructuring to finalize the re-structuring proposals and place them before the Cabinet at the earliest.

He instructed that the re-structuring proposals should have a clear and doable road-map with time-lines and measurable targets and performance benchmarks.

He directed the ministry that in the meanwhile, the Pakistan Railways should put its house in order and begin work on improving management and bringing operational efficiency by utilizing the resources available in the organization.

He said the Pakistan Railways must focus on reducing operating costs while introducing innovation to increase internal earnings. At the same time, he added, it must also focus on better management and utilization of non-core assets to fund operational capacities.

The Prime Minister said safety and security should receive the priority it deserves. He pointed out that there are hundreds of un-manned railway crossings across the country which is a permanent public hazard.

He regretted that many precious lives had been lost in the past including those of innocent school children. He directed the Pakistan Railways to take immediate steps for putting up gates at the un-manned railway crossings.

Federal Minister for Railways Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour apprised the Prime Minister of the steps taken to implement the Cabinet decisions. He also mentioned that due to shortage of locomotives, the Pakistan Railways is facing serious problems and difficulties.

Finance Minister Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Minister of State for Railways Afzal Sindhu and the concerned senior officials attended the meeting.