Muhammad Zubair Shahid
Railway has always been of vital importance for a country, it is not only the mode of travelling for the passengers but it has strategic importance for defense and economy. After independence Pakistan had adopted 8,122 kilometers track. Pakistan railways was earlier known as Pakistan Western Railway. Railway used to be the prime mode of transportation in Pakistan. Pakistan railways handled more than 73% of the freight traffic compared to less than 4% in past few years. During the period 1970 Pakistan railways was the largest passenger carrier in transportation.
Pakistan railways has been incurring heavy financial losses in past few years, the fiscal loss for the FY 2018-19 was 32.77 billion whereas the deficit for FY 2017-18 was 36.62 billion, for the quiet obvious reason revenue side fell short vs expenditures. The decline in revenue was due toclosure of freight trains,passenger trains and decline in number of passengers, whereas operating costs (Salaries, Pensions, Repair & Maintenance and fuel) kept inflating due to YoY inflation factor, annual increments in salaries and pensions, fuel prices hike, which resulted the financial deficit. Major components of PR operating expenses are Salaries, Pensions, Repairs and Maintenance and fuel.
During the FY 2019-20 railways has shown improvement in the financial performance “According to PR official this year PR has incurred no losses. PR railways has adopted a turnaround strategy with the core focus on resorting and introducing new freight and passenger trains. In this regard PR has introduced 20 passenger trains from March-2020, and committed to increase the freight trains from 8 to 20. Refurbished 24 trains in its own workshops in Lahore and Islamabad, which attracted an additional revenue of 5 billion.PR has recorded 7% increase in freight volume vs 4% in previous years. The number of passengers has increased to 70 million annually which shows revival of passenger’s confidence in PR.
PR has adopted more customer centric strategy and has introduced the initiatives like hassle free online ticket booking facility, which has proven quite successful due to wide usage of internet and smart phone, PR has launched online complaint cell to remedy any grievance and provide sense of care and importance to the passenger. In the next phase PR has announce to install water filtration plants for provision of safe drinking water at railway stations and has announced a special cleanliness and suaveness campaign in the railway will be operated. WIFI internet facility is provided on all major railways stations.PR is offering 25% discount on tickets to senior citizens.The acceptance and acknowledgment of these initiatives seems realized.
Unfortunately, previous governments had more focus on building roads and motorway there was no though on building and upgrading the rail network, after independence the length of railway track was 8,122 KM where as current track is 11,881 KM in past 73 years only 3,759 Km track is added which is 46.28% of initial track, whereas in Indian Rail track length added by 129% (1947-53,000 Km 2020-121,407 Km). The exiting 80 to 90 years old track is dilapidated, during 2019 over 100 train related incidents took place some of them were fatal and claimed lives of hundreds of people, beside this 111 engine failure incidents were reported. The incidents of derailment of passenger trains are very common and are ignored by high officials. There is dire need to replace the old decaying coach with new and modern coaches.PR owns 460 diesel and electric locomotives, out of which 135 are nonfunctional which is 30% of total locomotive inventory.
Government needs to expand the railway network as it can provide robust, cost effective and environment friendly supply chain management for businesses, defense sector and CPEC. Timely repair and maintenance of railway tracksshould be scheduled and ensured; obsolete tack should be replaced. There should be an invest in modern locomotives, equipped with advanced technology which can enable significant reduction in fuel consumption, saving the operating cost and environment at the same time. Nonfunctional locomotive should be repaired or replaced. Government must draw a compressive strategy to address the genuine issues faced by railways. Political motivated and cosmetic change will not have long lasting impact.
The Writer is a qualified accountant ACMA and CGMA from The Chartered Institute Of Management Accountants London UK.