Need 620 billion for total upgradation of the Pakistan Railways: Azam Khan Swati


LAHORE: Federal Railways Minister Azam Khan Swati on Wednesday talking to the media at the Pakistan Railways Headquarters here, he said at least 63 people were martyred and 107 injured in the Ghotki train accident. He said 20 people are undergoing treatment in hospitals and three are in the ICU. “We are making all arrangements for their treatment. I have visited them twice. I am an eyewitness to everything except the accident. I arrived there immediately on an army plane, and remained on the scene until the relief operation was completed the next day,” he said and added he himself supervised the evacuation of the injured and their transfer to hospitals.

He said Rs 1.5 million would be paid to the families of the passengers killed in the accident and Rs 50,000 to Rs 300,000 to the injured. In this regard, he would meet Prime Minister Imran Khan to decide what else can the government do for the injured?

Referring to the railway track, he said that from 2014 to date, no expenditure has been incurred on the main line except maintenance. This part of the track was maintained for up to eight miles and there was little chance of any problem. Speed is reduced when the track is damaged. With reference to this track, he has said it is dangerous. It has been restricted in many places to determine the speed. “I have personally inspected the track of the Sukkur Division. Pakistan is a poor country. Our coaches are 50 years old. Only two coaches of power plant are new.”

There are two ways to renovate the track, one is maintenance and the other is upgrading. The track has to be upgraded. “We have decided to seek permission from the prime minister to lay at least a new track from Kotri to Khanpur which is 140km long. If this track is built, three provinces will benefit from it. The coaches, engines and freight wagons will remain the same but there is no other way but to upgrade the track. He said he believes in accountability. Accountability should be from top to bottom. Regarding the safety of the railway track, the minister said the requirement regarding ML-I has been fulfilled.

Referring to the train accident, he said the first accident of derailment took place at 3.38am and the black box of both the trains has been recovered.

The inquiry will be completed under the supervision of the FGIR. Two independent officers will also investigate the accident. Twelve derailed bogies of the Millat Express caused the accident. This is the second such accident while the first accident was of three trains of the same type in 1990.

The time was so short that the brakes could not be applied. The driver of the Sir Syed Express did not get a chance. The armed forces, rangers and civil society took part in the rescue operation.

The Pakistan Railways has to refund about Rs23 million due to the Ghotki accident. Replying to a question, he said the Pakistan Railways is Pakistan’s property. Train is a ride for the poor and cannot be stopped.

Meanwhile, Federal Railways Minister Azam Khan Swati has suspended six high-ranking officials of the railways department who were found guilty of negligence in their duties that reportedly led to the derailment of Millat Express near Daharki on Tuesday, causing death of 63 passengers and injuries to 110.

According to an announcement by the Railways department on Wednesday, the minister ordered the suspension of those officials on the technical advice of Chief Executive Officer Nisar Ahmed Memon.

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