Pakistan Railways: Why not on Rails? A Revisit

By Karim Khan and Abdul Khaliq

Pakistan Railways Track Record

Following on from the November 16 PIDE webinar “Pakistan Railways or Pakistan’s Railways” and the subsequent blog “Pakistan Railways-Why not on Rails?” of December 01, that discussed the financial aspects, we are sharing a situational analysis of Pakistan Railways (PR) here. Undoubtedly, the transportation sector plays a climactic role in economic development and growth of the economy. Over the last few decades, Pakistan Railways has not been on track because of the multi-faceted challenges of poor governance, political interference, corruption, inadequate human capital, poor infrastructure, and huge deficits are preventing Pakistan’s railways from being on rails. In addition, the growing share of investment in road infrastructure and the continued low investment in Pakistani railways have had a negative impact on the financial position of Pakistani railways. Table 1 below provides a summary of Pakistan Railways’ profits and losses between 1955 and 2018.

Table 1: Summary of Pakistan Railways Profit/Loss (Million PKR)

Human Resource Management

As noted above, the lack of human resources, nepotism and political involvement in the appointment of employees contributed greatly to the collapse of the Pakistani railways. Political and personal interests are involved in the placements and transfers of employees, which cause indignation and the feeling of job insecurity among them and have led to a lack of effectiveness of the organization. In addition, long-term arrangements and their enforcement are severely affected by persistent changes in the placement of senior public servants. Human resources management remains an unresolved issue, even though the current administration of PR states that merit and job security assignments are their primary concerns. There is a declining trend in the number of employees hired by PR. At the same tie, the associated cost shows an upsurge, as depicted in Figures 1 and 2, respectively.

Figure 1: Number of Employees in Pakistan Railways
Source: Pakistan Railways Year Book 2017-18
Figure 2: Associated Cost of Employees (PKR)
Source: Pakistan Railways Year Book 2017-18

Poor infrastructure

Poor infrastructure also contributing in the distraction of Pakistan Railways. Most of Pakistan’s railway resources, including physical infrastructure, including physical infrastructure, have been used to their full potential and are no longer productive, seriously disrupting the effectiveness of the work. While infrastructure development has been identified as the primary concern by the current administration, maintenance and repair expenditures are a major contributing factor to overall operating costs. In addition, locomotives with operational status were also the reason for the dispute within PR’s operating and mechanical services. The total number of locomotives owned per RP, including unproductive and in-service locomotives, shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Owned Locomotives
Source: Pakistan Railways Year Book 2017-18.

Ticketless Travelling

Travelling without a ticket on Pakistan Railways also occurs quite frequently, which creates losses for Pakistani railways. This unethical activity is most apparent on branch lines where it is believed to occur with the support of railway police and ticket verifiers. To increase monetary gains, Pakistan’s railways must improve administration to protect these leaks. Table 2 shows the number of passengers and the fines they faced.

Table 2: Ticketless Cases and Fines


Corruptiondestroys the confidence of citizens in the public sector to do what is in their best interests. As Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said, Pakistan’s public sector is largely prey to corruption, and overcoming these corrupt activities among government officials is a major preoccupation of the establishment. In order to combat corruption at the micro and macro levels, the Pakistani railways had established the new standards of incorruptibility and implemented several safety measures by initiating the principles of accountability, transparency and effective fiscal management for the past four years. In addition, the vigilance management has been relaunched in order to prevent acts of corruption through internal control. Officials involved in corruption were correctly taken and provided severe penalties with the dismissal of the service awarded.

Concluding Remarks

Today, the transport sectors, especially rail, play a vital role for the socio-economic development of any country. In analyzing the situational aspects of the Pakistani railways, we have observed that Pakistani Railways has suffered a series of losses in recent decades. In addition, poor infrastructure and low service standards contribute to the deteriorating Pakistani railroad. Therefore, to improve the performance of Pakistan Railways concerned authorities could encourage the public-private partnership particularly in advancement of existing and new infrastructure. Moreover, Pakistan Railways can get help from publicity to attract the public towards railways.  Finally, and most importantly, Pakistani railways need to engage their officials; in more commercial deals with different industries to increase Pakistan Railways revenues.


  1. Agreed with your suggestion of a Public-Private partnership for the betterment of the sector. Through this way, we might be able to hire professionals to get rid of the mishaps which occur only because of mismanagement. Overall a good piece of writing

  2. I suggest few steps for making Pakistan Railways a profit earning organization.

    1. Improve the railway track with minimum cost.

    2. Buy 125 new locomotives, it will increase the Business

    3. Minimum 100 freight trains are necessary to earn more revenue.

    4. All the passenger trains except few must be privatized.

    5. Replace all the wooden sleepers with concrete sleepers.

    This Target can be achieved within $600 million.

    • My dear where you get this data. 600 million dollar is peanut. Do you know the cost occured on 01 km lying rails. And many many other factors

  3. At time PR needs to improve its infrastructure especially ML-1 (Between ROH-HDR-ROH), ML-2 and sick branch lines. Also the enhancement of business in freight sector is needed by introducing user friendly policies.

    PR is having sufficient locomotives and rolling stock so that the restoration of suspended trains must be done immediately to earn more revenue. And plans for the rehabilitation of 100 plus locomotives should be materialized now.

    Passenger train operation has been reduced to 50% in last decade (2011-2020). The reason is mismanagement, poor governance and ignorance. The Samasatta-Bahawalnagar section is the true example of this.

    • Dear Mr. Faraz Akram sb, I have gone through the report and its really good work and your suggestions are worth seeking attention. Though I am a doctor by profession but my passion for railway is since childhood. I am writing as I think that lot of attention can be given on freight logistics. In this regard I think sectors like textile, cement and many other should be encouraged to participate rather than using conventional road freight trucks. Can you guide me if anyone wants to use freight train for this purpose and how can we give better services than ordinary truck

      • Pakistan Railways has not been on track because of the multi-faceted challenges of poor governance, political interference, corruption, inadequate human capital, poor infrastructure, and huge deficits are preventing Pakistan’s railways from being on rails.

  4. In my opinion the management system is responsible for all these issues because every penny spend is worthless and is spend over where there’s no need .
    There must be efficient system which could help to generate the revenue even from what we have.
    There must be efficient ticketing system like orange line no one can enter without purchasing the ticket or token.
    there are many other factors which are responsible for this.

  5. Keeping in view the blog and useful suggestions by the readers I would share what I understand being a train lover passenger and a concerned citizen. I think corruption is the venom that has ruined all our departments, their development and integrity. No officials can corrupt a penny without clean chit given by the higher authorities. Some of you have suggested to increase frieght trains to improve PR’s economy but there’s a huge interference of road transport mafias that are never in the favor of frieght trains revival. Political instability is the main reason, all the elected governments either are not allowed to work freely in such important matters or waste its time fighting and blaming eachother.
    Everything/infrastructure is available to revive the main income source like railway, the only thing needed is sincerity, seriousness and dedication.

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