The government is considering a railway network plan, linking Pakistan with Middle Eastern countries through the Quetta-Taftan track.
This was revealed by senior railway officials while briefing the Senate Standing committee on railways which met with Muhammad Asad Ali Khan Junejo in the chair.
The committee was given a detailed briefing on the preventive steps taken by Pakistan Railways for passengers and employees to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, besides the issue of public importance raised by Senator Mushahidullah Khan about the compensation given to individuals who were injured and killed in a speeding accident on October 31, 2019.
The committee expressed serious annoyance over the absence of Secretary Railways from the meeting and directed him to attend the next meeting.
Senator Dr. Jahanzeb Jamal Dini said that the Quetta Taftan track has already been constructed and the committee should be informed in the next meeting regarding the provision of train service. The committee was informed that a plan to work with Middle Eastern countries on the project is under consideration and consultations are underway. The Standing Committee also sought details of Quetta-Chaman Track.
The committee was further informed that 50 employees tested positive for COVID-19 of the Ministry of Railways where three persons died due to the epidemic. Junejo said that the pandemic has engulfed the entire world. It is the duty of all of us to take precautionary measures.
The committee was briefed by the officials on the steps taken by the Ministry of Railways to protect passengers and employees from the virus. The committee was informed that 5 passenger trains were stopped on March 19 due to the epidemic and an additional 20 trains by March 21, while all passenger trains were closed on March 31. After taking precautionary measures, 15 trains were restored on May 20 and all passenger trains have been restored since June 1.
Various safety measures have been taken, out of which the seating capacity of the train has been reduced from 100 percent to 60 percent. A distance of 4 feet is maintained between the seats and a total of 25 railway stations were opened. Only ticket holders are allowed to enter the railway station and appropriate staff was called on for duty.
The committee was further informed that each station has a medical staff and an isolation department on the train. Those who do not comply with the SOPs have been fined. Further online bookings have been made to avoid the rush. Separate doors have been set aside for entry and exit of the train. Meal facility has also been closed in the train and some stalls have been allowed to open at the railway station keeping in view the employment of the people, officials added.
Secretary Railways has also written letters to the provinces for mutual cooperation and protection of people from the epidemic and the provinces have also assured of full cooperation. The committee was informed that it was also been praised internationally.
Responding to a question the committee was informed that the same SOPs have also been adopted on the cargo side. The chairman of the committee directed to further improve the monitoring of the cargo side and ensure the implementation of SOPs. Senator Sardar Muhammad Shafiq Tareen said that the committee should be informed about the progress report of the Sibi section in the next meeting.
Regarding compensation to the victims of Teezgam tragedy, 34 people were injured in the accident and they were given compensation ranging in Rs 50,000 to Rs 300,000 and a total of Rs 20 million was disbursed in this regard. 74 people died in the accident. The families of 68 persons have been given Rs 100 million assistance at the rate of Rs 1.5 million per person. Only the families of 6 persons are left out of which the families of 2 persons could not be found and the families of 4 persons can receive assistance by providing necessary documents.
Junejo said that the Railway Department had also announced to assist the victim. The committee was informed that the family has been compensated with the help of life insurance. The Ministry of Railways did not provide assistance.
The chairman of the committee sought details in the next meeting. The meeting was attended among others by Senators Dr. Jahanzeb Jamal Dini, Ata-ur-Rehman, and Sardar Muhammad Shafiq Tareen besides officials of the Ministry of Railways.