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Pakistan Railways - maladies and remedies.

Pakistan Railways - Maladies and Remedies

Go to the railway station and you will find long queues before the booking windows. Many times the intending passengers have to come in the early hours of the morning, long before the booking window opens, in an attempt to obtain railway tickets. Still many of them may have to return disappointed after a long and troublesome standing in a long queue. It is also an every day experience that the railway compartments, particularly those of 2nd class are packed far beyond their capacity. The compartment is so overcrowded that sometimes there is hardly any passage for a person to walk from one end to the other, even for the purpose of responding to the call of nature. At times even the toilets are occupied by the passengers. The sanitary system is grossly unsatisfactory while the electric system is in a pitiable condition. The electric bulbs are either missing or fused and the ceiling fans very often defective. Such is the dismal state of the services being provided by the Pakistan Railways to its poor passengers. On the other hand, the current losses of Pakistan Railways are reported to exceed Rs. 2.5 billion. This organisation which earned a profit of 3.6 million rupees (in 1971-72) ran into 7,756.3 million rupees deficits in 1988-89. This shows that the performance of Pakistan Railways over the years has been grossly unsatisfactory. All this calls for a serious look into the whole working of this important organisation.

A close study has revealed that Pakistan Railways has miserably failed to compete with road transport in terms of passenger and cargo service. Its share in passengers and cargo services which was 75.9 in comparison of 21.1 per cent of road transport, during the 2nd Five Year Plan period miserably fell to 21.7 per cent by the time of 7th Five Year Plan. This declining trend speaks of incapability and the mismanagement on the part of the concerned authorities at their respective levels. This also speaks of their indifference or inaptitude to take timely necessary measures to check the deteriorating situation and meeting the increasing competition from the road transport sector.

Perhaps, the main malady behind the Pakistan Railways has been its inability to run on commercial lines, like most of other public sector organisations. It also suffers from too much bureaucratic touch and unbusiness like operations. The sorry state of affairs of this important organisation can undoubtedly be attributed to a number of factors ranging from lack of proper planning to huge non-production expenditure, over-staffing, large-scale revenue leakages, un-deterred corruption and unscientific and inefficient management.

The ambitious plan being launched by Pakistan Railways to curtail its losses is a welcome step. It aims at augmenting inventory of goods wagons, passenger coaches and spares in addition to refurbishment of the rolling stock. It is also heartening that the World Bank has agreed for providing the Pakistan Railways a credit of Rs. 13.2 billion rupees.

No doubt, it would help taking the measures such as increasing the number of wagons and coaches, rehabilitation of the railway track, balancing and modernising etc., which were overdue. However, these alone would not be enough to check the heavy losses that are being continuously incurred. The foremost requirement is the drastic changes in the managerial and operational system of the organisation. A truly professional approach would be the best remedy. It would enable to take bold and appropriate initiatives and decisions at the right time and in the right direction. These decisions would have far reaching impact on various aspects including curtailment of unnecessary expenditure, overstaffing, plugging revenue leakages, appropriate re-routing, rescheduling restricting/discontinuing unprofitable operations while at the same time improving the efficiency and the quality of both passengers as well as cargo services. Such measures are a must for curing the sick Pakistan Railways and turning it into a task-oriented organisation capable enough of its counter-parts in many other countries of the world, including our next door neighbour, India.
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Author:Farooqi, Shakeel
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Jul 1, 1990
Previous Article:Karachi - largest city of Pakistan.
Next Article:Economic survey 1989-90.

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