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Rupee fall, high fuel cost cause hike in train fares

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LAHORE:

The skyrocketing cost of high-speed diesel coupled with depreciation of the rupee is having a compound effect on the cost of operations of Pakistan Railways, hence the department has been forced to increase fares, said Pakistan Railways CEO Nisar Ahmad Memon.

In a video statement on Monday, he lamented that the railways was left with no option but to jack up fares for passenger and freight segments.

Pakistan Railways has increased passenger ticket prices by 10% with effect from November 1 and has enhanced fares for freight operations by 5%, which will be implemented from November 5.

“We have to keep engines rolling,” he said. “We tried to bear the burden initially, however, it is becoming impossible for us to operate with the existing fares amid the difficult times.”

He added that fares were last increased in July 2019 by 5% and things had changed drastically since the previous revision.

“Around 60% of parts used in locomotives are imported and the proportion of imported parts in passenger coaches stands at around 30%,” he said. “Rupee depreciation and increase in salaries of Pakistan Railways’ employees over the past two years have burdened the organisation.”

Terming the hike in fares minimal, the CEO said that expenses of Pakistan Railways had risen substantially.

The state-owned entity had underperformed in the past due to several political and administrative reasons. It is often termed a white elephant because successive governments have pumped cash to keep it functioning.

The current government also announced a special package for Pakistan Railways after the coronavirus struck Pakistan. The Rs6 billion bailout package, approved by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) last year, gave some breathing space to the cash-strapped organisation after the nationwide lockdown.

Passenger operations of the railways remained halted during the lockdown and since the easing of curbs, the management has been trying to operate passenger trains in accordance with the standard operating procedures.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2021.

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