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Event Title: Senator Jam Saifullah Khan, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Railways presiding over a Meeting of The Committee at Parliament House Islamabad

Event Date: 2024-07-10

Senate Standing Committee on Railways met under the Chairmanship of Senator Jam Saifullah Khan today at Parliament House. The meeting was attended by Senator Saifullah Sarwar Khan Nyazee, Senator Kamil Ali Agha, Senator Dost Ali Jessar, Secretary for Ministry of Railways Syed Mazhar Ali Shah and other senior officials were also in attendance.

 Secretary of the Ministry of Railways, Syed Mazhar Ali Shah, briefed the committee on the operations and performance of the ministry. He highlighted that railways are 62% safer and 72% more environmentally friendly than roads and can contribute economically by lowering the cost of the oil import bill. Unfortunately, despite having all the potential, the first transport policy in Pakistan was only formulated in 2018, with the aim of providing safe, affordable, efficient, durable, and environmentally friendly means of transport.

 Currently, Pakistan Railways is moving towards self-reliance by increasing its market share from 8% to 30%; however, financial constraints are impeding progress. He highlighted that out of the total budget, railways spends around 95% on pensions, pay, and fuel, leaving only 5% for maintenance. For the financial year 2024-25, the liabilities related to pensions amount to around 62 billion rupees. He emphasized that Pakistan Railways has undertaken some measures to minimize operational costs and also requested the federal government to include railway pensioners in the national account. He mentioned that Railways is committed to moving towards public-private partnerships and is planning to introduce four smart railway cars for routes between Lahore-Islamabad, Lahore-Faisalabad, Lahore-Multan, and Karachi-Hyderabad at a cost of around 45 million USD. Under this public-private partnership, private parties will contribute a small portion of the profit for maintaining the tracks.

 Senator Kamil Ali Agha highlighted the existence of a double electric line between Lahore and Lodhran. The Secretary of Railways informed the committee that while a double electric line did exist, it has unfortunately been dismantled.

 While discussing ML-1, the Secretary of Railways explained that ECNEC has approved the ML-1 upgradation project at a cost of around 6.68 billion USD. In the first phase, the railway track from Karachi to Multan will be upgraded, and in the next phase, the track from Multan to Peshawar will be upgraded. The committee decided to hold an exclusive session on the ML-1 project.

 The committee decided to visit the Islamabad and Lahore railway workshops to examine their performance.

The Committee recommended that when making plans for the future, it is important to consider the impacts of climate change.

The Committee directed that priority should be given to the expansion of the rail network to enhance regional connectivity and maximize financial benefits.

The committee recommended that a think tank be created to strategize future projects, taking into consideration future trends and climate changes. A report should be presented to the Committee at the next meeting.

The Committee directed that, in the future, focus should be placed on expanding the use of solar power, battery charging, and electric vehicles to reduce fuel consumption and address environmental concerns effectively.

The Committee recommended that Pakistan Railways ensure that trains, particularly the Bolan and Khushal Khan Khattak trains, arrive at their destinations on time.