MULTAN - Federal minister for railways Khawaja Saad Rafiq disclosed on Friday that Pakistan Railways was going to introduce e-ticketing system very soon which would enable the citizens to get their tickets booked from their homes.

Addressing the members of Multan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), the minister added that the automation of ticketing would also abolish the sale of tickets in black. He further revealed that 80 per cent work on the e-ticketing system had been done and it would begin a new era of train travel.

He further revealed that the computerisation of lands and properties owned by the Pakistan Railways had also been launched. He added that the Pakistan Railway owned 167000 acres of land and it was likely that 15000 acres would increase due to the computerisation process. He said that some land of Railway was in possession of provinces and the department was faced with difficulty to get the possession. “Now KP has given us the land while other provinces are still non-cooperative and we might need to move Supreme Court for this purpose,” he disclosed.

He said that he had taken the charge of Railway ministry three years ago but still a new problem surfaced every other day. “We fix it and move forth,” he added.

He pointed out that political interference ruined the institution, adding that jiyalas and matwalas were given jobs in the past. “Now all appointments are being made on merit and anyone, who comes with a ‘safarish’, cannot sit on any seat,” he claimed.

He disclosed that when he became minister the earnings of the department stood at Rs 18.06 billion while now it would surpass Rs 35 billion mark till June 2016. He added that the income from freight trains was Rs 1.80 billion and now it was likely to jump to Rs 12 billion till June. “But still we need to go a long way to rehabilitate the train sector,” he added.

Referring to CPEC project, he said that it was a game changer and work would begin within next six months to lay new rail between Karachi and Toorkhum via Multan, Lahore, Pindi and Peshawar. He added that the speed of trains between Lahore and Karachi would go up to 160 kilometers per hour after the completion of this project. He said that Lahore-Karachi route had been made double-track while work on Lahore-Peshawar double track was still pending.

The minister disclosed that 11 stations were being upgraded under annual development programme but Multan was not among them. “Multan will be upgraded in second phase during which 31 more stations will be upgraded,” he added.

To a query, Saad Rafiq said that standard AC coaches would be attached to Mehr Express for its upgradation, adding that at least three more years were required to upgrade other trains. He was of the opinion that a new express train was needed for quick connectivity of Multan with Islamabad. “I’ll have consultation on this topic in an upcoming high-level meeting,” he declared.

He said that the Railway administration wanted to run a cargo train between Multan and Karachi but local business community did not take any interest in it. He pointed out that the department suffered loss in running WiFi enabled Moosa Pak train between Lahore and Multan while Multan Express had also been launched but the department would calculate the expense and earning after 90 days. “It’s not viable for Pakistan Railway to keep bearing the loss. If you want to get the timings of these trains changed, talk to us. We’re ready to do so,” he offered.

Answering another question on closure of industrial estate railway gate for longer periods, he said that the private sector should step forward to construct an underpass or bridge at this place. “The government cannot do everything. The private sector should come forward. We’ll support their initiatives,” he assured. He told the industrialists that if they demanded, the department was ready to run freight train from Sher Shah Junction instead of city or Cantonment stations.

Earlier, talking to the journalists at Multan Cantonment Railway Station after inaugurating Multan Express, Saad Rafiq said the government inherited PIA and Pakistan Railway losses worth billions but now the railway was on track of improvement. He asked the residents of Multan to prefer train for commuting otherwise Railway could not run trains with losses.

Later on, the minister inspected the newly launched train and appreciated the railway officials for offering good commuting facilities to the residents of Mutlan. High railway officials and local politicians accompanied him.