The Rail Gaari is Ill

“The railway and railway men have always given their best performance during periods of crisis. The Railway was the life line which kept the country going during major floods when all other lines of communication were gone, especially during the 1973 floods…”

The above quote is, but  a rare instance in the book titled ‘What ails the Railways’, written by Syed Abdul Quddus. There is no other information about the author inside, hence, difficult to determine the relationship of the author to the Railways, but the analysis inside is pretty detailed and a lot of the information, especially related to facts and figures, is presented in table form, making it easy to read. The book was printed in 1992 and a lot of the information may not be relevant anymore. But it is useful as a record of all the problems that the Railways faced at the time and perhaps to compare it with the present state of affairs.

There are some key issues, listed in one of the final chapters, that perhaps bear repeating here.

‘Reduction in volume of traffic’: Basically better roads were being built so everyone decided to take cars. Also, cars are easy to get in Pakistan with a nominal down payment. Aha!

You may feel more superior driving down GT road, but here’s the thing. Railways are actually cheaper in terms of fuel consumption. Here’s how the author compares the two:

Fuel consumption per T.K.M.

Rail: 1

Road: 9.39

The comparison is clear, even if your fractions are weak. But here’s why folks are not running to get on the Shalimar Express.

Pakistan Railways has some serious personality issues. There are pesky trade unions that eroding discipline, says the author (he did not say pesky, that’s my word) and train timings are bad when they do run on time, budgets are low along with morale and service is marked by impolite staff attitude to congested platforms where passengers have no space to sit or keep their luggage.