Lahore University of Management Sciences

Talk on Pakistan Railways: Current Condition and Solutions

November 01, 2013

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Brown Bag Series lecture organised by the Department of Economics:

Fiaz Ahmed Khan is a CSS officer of the Railway transportation and commercial services group of Pakistan Railways. He is currently working as a Deputy Chief Personnel Officer in Pakistan Railways Headquarter Office. He will be discussing his paper on:

 “Pakistan Railways; Its Current Condition and Cause-Based Solutions"

Date: Friday, 1st November 2013

Venue: A-14, Academic Block, LUMS

Time: 2:30 till 4:00 PM

 

Abstract

In an era of increasing population and urban expansion, better transportation has become as crucial as the need to increase power generation. Though road vehicles are a crucial component in a country's transportation system, the needs of the mass movement of goods and people are met only by mass transportation i.e. a railway system.

Despite experiments since 1990, some by the government itself, as a consequence of consultant studies and IMF/World Bank intervention, Pakistan Railways (PR) is bedeviled by problems that have deteriorated it to its lowest ebb in its history. This paper attempts to provide an alternative view to what is commonly discussed in and out of PR. It focuses on the underlying factors that have squandered financial resources and prevent PR from being managed properly.

The primary factors are the following:

  1. Distorted administrative structures that reflect interests of groups rather than designed for performance.
  2. Faulty planning of infrastructure development and implementation.
  3. Failing locomotive fleet.
  4. Massive corruption being the common denominator of all activity

The examination of each factor indicates a set of false premises that plague the minds of policy makers and politicians. As these premises are taken for granted and are never discussed at any level. These set of premises are as follows:

  1. Railways, historically, has always been a subsidized business. Therefore, it is better run by the government.
  2. PR delivers a service to the poor so it must be kept away from profit seeking capitalist businessmen.
  3. A large number of employees and their families would lose their livelihood; therefore, they must be protected by keeping PR a government department.
  4. If given adequate financial resources, PR will flourish and lack thereof is the major cause of its decline.
  5. The government gives more funds to the road sector and PR receives less, hence the deficiencies in PR.
  6. Ministers should be heavily involved in managerial matters to improve PR.
  7. Government departments have sufficient know-how and expertise to handle all its problems and there is no need for outside help in the form of consultants and industry experts.
  8. Research is not needed as all is known already.
  9. Corruption should be tolerated as long as performance is satisfactory.

The paper seeks to challenge and highlight these false premises, focus on how the factors described above causes problems that inhibit PRs’ ability to function properly.

The paper also seeks to convince policy makers that that the first and foremost step towards any plan of reform must begin with self-examination and identification of the causes of the current predicament PR finds itself in. Any plan of reform that reaches false conclusions on how and why PR has deteriorated will not be able to adapt a plan of reform to the peculiar needs and requirements of a sick PR. The plan will contain the seeds of its own failure if it fails to recognize the critical areas from the less critical, the fundamental from the superficial. In other words, prioritize the causes in a descending order.

Profile

Fiaz Ahmed Khan has a MA degree in history from the University of Peshawar and has passed his civil superior service exams in the year 2003. As a CSS officer he handles the commercial and operational matters of Pakistan Railways.


He has served on different positions in operations, planning and personnel departments. Currently, he holds a grade 19 position in Pakistan Railways Headquarter Office as Deputy Chief Personnel Officer. 


He has participated in various training programmes during his ten year career, these included training in project management, government finance and policy making. His last training was in January 2013 on a Japanese Government Sponsored course in Tokyo on Urban Railway Operations.