Pakistan Railways (PR) has proposed to construct under passes and flyovers at vulnerable level crossings on Built, Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis with the help of private sector, after getting cold shoulder from provincial governments.
PR has accused provincial governments for not playing their due role in manning the vulnerable level crossings which were the cause of over 80 deaths during the last three years as well as huge financial losses to the national exchequer on account of damages to locomotives and compensation to the deceased families.
Provincial Governments Refuse to Cooperate
Official sources revealed that due to non-cooperation from the provincial governments, Railways Ministry has proposed to construct under passes and flyovers at all vulnerable level crossings on BOT basis with the help of private contractors. The contractors would collect toll from the users and after recovering their money, would hand over it to government.
The Ministry is passing on the responsibility of up-gradation of level crossings to provincial governments and did not initiate a single project to improve the vulnerable/unmanned level crossings on the tracks. The Ministry has estimated that Rs 25 billion would be required for the up-gradation of these vulnerable points.
Lack of Funds To Blame
Railway Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique has mentioned that the Ministry does not have enough funds and requires funds from the provincial governments for manning the level crossings.
We have sent numerous letters to all provincial governments to play their role in manning the level crossings but only Punjab provided funds. He further said that 80 level crossing have so far been manned while work on 100 is in progress. Only 7 level crossings were manned during the previous government period, – he added.
He said that the provincial governments are to be blamed if the railway does not get the necessary funds from them. Manned level crossings will be further upgraded with provision of signals and tracking/monitoring of trains through GPS/ location devices.
Level Crossing Statistics
According to Railways Ministry there are a total of 2470 level crossings without guards including:
- 1195 in Punjab
- 133 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
- 504 in Sindh and
- 86 in Balochistan.
A joint survey of vulnerable unmanned level crossings was conducted in collaboration with Punjab government in 2013. As a result 511 such vulnerable unmanned level crossings were identified in Punjab.
Fund Allocation for Up-gradation of Level Crossings
An amount of Rs 610 million was deposited by the provincial government for up-gradation of 75 vulnerable unmanned level crossings in 2014 and work over these level crossings has been completed. The remaining identified vulnerable unmanned level crossings are 436. The full cost of up-gradation is Rs 3.7 billion. Punjab government has been requested to divide the amount in three equal installments and initially deposit an amount of Rs 1.23 billion for up-gradation of 145 vulnerable unmanned level crossings.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has also released Rs 100 million, with which 17 unmanned level crossings would be converted into manned level crossings.
According to Railways Ministry data 189 train accidents occurred at unmanned level crossings during 2014-16, where 80 persons were killed and over 125 injured.