Pakistan Railways Minister Azam Khan Swati expressed commitment to increase freight sector revenues to Rs36 billion during the rest of his tenure.

Addressing a press conference on Saturday, he highlighted that he aims to operate the cash-strapped entity on modern business lines.

“Freight is the only sector, which can help railways minimise its widening deficit, I will try to increase freight revenues from the current Rs19 billion to Rs36 billion,” said Swati. Shedding light on the public-private partnership, he said, “We will now hire experts, who will create a business model for railways on modern lines keeping in view the win-win situation for both private sector and railways.”

The minister revealed that he is also planning to outsource schools and hospitals, which fall under the domain of Pakistan Railways.

“It is not my job to run school and hospitals, I will outsource all those departments, which are in loss and will focus on improving the infrastructure of railways and implement new business plans so railways can come out of deficit.”

Pakistan Railways recorded deficit of Rs45 billion in fiscal year 2019-20, compared to Rs33 billion in fiscal year 2018-19. The corporation posted revenue of Rs58 billion in 2019-20, which is Rs4 billion more than the revenue posted in 2019-20.

Both revenues and deficit are on an upward trajectory since the previous minister’s focus were to increase the number of trains, which somehow helped the institution increase its revenues but at the same time, its operational cost also skyrocketed due to increased train operations.

Furthermore, the minister stated that he will punish officials who were involved in the delayed upgrade of the signalling system.

“Keeping in view that the delay in upgrade of signalling system has cost railways $60,000 per day along with an increasing number of accidents; I have spoken to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman requesting an inquiry in this matter,” he said.

“If we have to build railways, we have to build it on a new business model and we have to work hard on building its new infrastructure, and I am hopeful that existing employees will work hard on new lines. Give me a year and you will see the difference,” Swati claimed.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2021.

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