Unpaid salaries agitate Railway workers

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LAHORE: Pakistan Railways employees escalated their protest against unpaid salaries on Wednesday by closing the gate of the carriage workshop, effectively halting traffic in the area. The state-run railway workers have been staging daily protests to demand their long-overdue salaries.

During the Wednesday protest, employees demanded that their salaries be paid immediately. Railway officers assured them that payments would be made on October 20. However, the employees rejected this assurance, vowing to continue their protests until they received their salaries.

The disgruntled railway employees lamented that they had not been paid for three months, making it extremely challenging to make ends meet, especially during times of soaring inflation. They called for the interim prime minister to intervene and address this pressing issue urgently.

Pakistan Railways is currently grappling with its worst-ever financial crisis, which has left it unable to meet its monthly salary obligations to employees, clear pensions for retired staff, and make timely payments to vendors.
According to a report, the state-run entity has been unable to earn its potential revenue amounting to Rs6.1 billion in track access charges in FY23.

As per the auditor general’s report on Pakistan Railways’ affairs, its Freight Transportation Company (PRFTC) letter, dated November 29, 2019, read that the railways ministry had entrusted the charge of the head of project management office (PMO) to the PRFTC’s CEO for managing track access agreements.

Another PRFTC letter, dated December 8, 2020, stated that the Pakistan Railways would earn an average of Rs6.1 billion every year through the implementation of track access agreements.

During the audit, it was noted that the Pakistan Railways had obtained approval for track access agreements from the federal cabinet and Railway Board in 2010 and 2011. Later, the agreements were executed with Pakistan Intermodal Limited (PIL) and Fast Track Silver Link (Pvt) Limited (FTSLL) in 2013.

These pacts aimed to involve private parties for investment and expertise, allowing them to operate freight trains using their rolling stock while paying track access charges to the Pakistan Railways.

It observed that the PMO was established in 2019, six years after the agreements were inked.

The railways ministry had entrusted the PRFTC CEO with leading the PMO to achieve the agreed objectives, but no progress was made by the freight company’s management. Following that, private parties and investors, PIL and FTSLL, filed a lawsuit because the agreements were not implemented.

The audit office observed that this not only deprived the the Pakistan Railways of the potential earnings of Rs6.1 billion per year, but also forced it to face court cases. This also dented reputation of the Pakistan Railways and PRFTC as well, the audit office pointed out.

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