KARACHI - Pakistan Railways’ employees on Saturday staged protest against the new business train service which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani on Friday.

At Karachi Cantt Station, workers demanded annulment of contract between Pakistan Railways and a private firm namely Four Brothers International.  They said Rs3,500 was a normal fare for one-way journey from Karachi to Lahore whereas the private company was charging high rates. They said that it was not difficult for the PR to start this service without privatising it.

On the other hand, a source told TheNation that the private company uses six motors in a locomotive that gives a big support during the journey while the other engines who headed the local trains have only two motors which cannot support the rail to continue to its journey. The department has allocated prime location to private firm for its operation including VIP Lounge, four counters and eight number platform, he added.  

Meanwhile, passenger trains’ service was remain suspended throughout the country for over 10 hours on Monday as railway employees did not allow any locomotive to come out of the loco-shed in protest against non-payment of salary.

The employees were already protesting against disconnection of electricity and gas supplies to residential colonies for the last three days. They first closed the gates of the loco shed at around 8am and then lay down on tracks at all major stations.

In Lahore, railway police personnel posted near the loco-shed and at the Lahore Station but they did not try to disperse the protesters. And some of them in plainclothes were seen supplying water and snacks to the protesters who were chanting ‘Paisay do, kam lo, mazdoor se roti na cheeno.’

Mazdoor Union secretary general Haji Seed Arian, Mehnatkash Union’s Baba Khaki Hussain, Workers Union’s Asif Ali Khan, Loco Shed Workers Union’s Sarfraz Khan and other leaders of ‘Rail Bachao Ittehad’ who were leading the protest said employees were not getting their salaries and pensioners were not being paid.

Furthermore, they said, electricity connections of 26 railway colonies had been cut off for non-payment although the amount was being deducted regularly from the salary of employees.

At 6pm, Lahore Division’s Commercial Officer approached the protesters and conveyed to them a message of the railway administration that a final date for payment of salaries would be conveyed to them by Tuesday noon. After consultations, the employees agreed to call off the protest.

In Rawalpindi, employees demonstrated at the railway station and warned the government of complete wheel-jam from Wednesday.

More than 200 railway workers, led by PREM Union Ishtiaq Aasi and Raja Yasir Aslam, gathered at the railway station and stopped trains for more than two hours. Workers and drivers at the Central Diesel Locomotive (CDL) workshop also observed strike for two hours and staged protest.