The good trains
While things look bleak from every angle, three trains prove to be a tiny ray of hope for Pakistan Railways. “Karakoram is on time daily as are Tezgam and Khyber Mail,” said Safeer Ahmed, a coolie, at the station. “The reason being their engines or locomotives are in good shape as compared to the others, so they don’t give much trouble on the way,” he shared.
“There was a problem with delays a month or so ago but things have improved to an extent now as Pakistan Railways is no longer facing as bad a fuel shortage as it was then,” divulged Shakir Zaidi, a ticket collector at the station. “The Peshawar to Karachi Awami Express, too, that was never on time is doing reasonably better now,” he said.
When asked how the change came about, he said only the government knew. “Some new policy by some bureaucrat at the top perhaps,” he smiled.
But an inside source at the same station revealed some problems that officials wouldn’t speak about and the passengers don’t know about; such as weather conditions, shortage of locomotives and lack of facilities.
“You don’t see that much of a chaos right now because just one train has arrived at this point in time. But when two or three trains reach around the same time, this place is swarming with passengers waiting to get on those trains. And the numbers increase as they trains get delayed,” he said.
The weather adds to the problems, he said, “Well, the heat makes the engines conk out! When you have one train coming in from Pindi, for example, on a single engine, and then the same train returns to Pindi on the very same engine with hardly any cooling time, what else do you expect?” he asked.
“That’s how the diesel workshop has over 150 railway locomotives rotting there. There is no provision for maintenance as there are no new mechanical parts coming in. And without them we can’t get the engines running again. So they accumulate at our workshops. After Nawaz Sharif’s government, there has been no railway engine maintenance as imported parts are too expensive for the Railways to buy. Nawaz Sharif was smart enough to negotiate with the World Bank to get us the parts but now no one cares,” he said.
“The biggest trouble-maker in all the trains was the Karachi to Sargodha Super Express. After that train was retired, the railway got to use its old engines as well as coaches for other trains,” he said.