Pakistan Railways (reporting mark PR) (Urdu: پاکستان ریلویز) is the national, state-owned railway company of Pakistan. Founded in 1861 and headquartered in Lahore, it owns 4,800 miles (7,791 km) of track across Pakistan from Torkham to Karachi and operates freight and passenger service. Pakistan Railways was also known as the Pakistan Western Railway from 1947 to 1974.
In 2014 the Ministry of Railways launched Pakistan Railways Vision 2026, which seeks to increase the company's share of the transportation sector from four to 20 percent with the ₨886.68 billion (US$8.4 billion) China–Pakistan Economic Corridor rail upgrade. The plan includes new locomotives, development and improvement of current rail infrastructure, an increase in average train speed, improved on-time performance and expansion of passenger service. The first phase of the project was completed in 2017, and the second phase is scheduled for completion by 2021. Pakistan Railways is an active member of the International Union of Railways.
Pakistan Railways headquarters, Lahore
|Predecessor||North Western State Railway|
|Founded||13 May 1861|
|Revenue||₨40.08 billion (US$380 million) (2016–17)|
|₨-40.7 billion (US$−390 million) (2016–17)|
|Owner||Government of Pakistan|
Number of employees
|Parent||Ministry of Railways|
In 1855, during the British Raj, several railway companies began laying track and operating in present-day Pakistan. The country's rail system was originally a patchwork of local rail lines operated by small, private companies, including the Scinde Railway, Punjab Railway, Delhi Railway and Indus Steam Flotilla. In 1870, the four companies combined to form the Scinde, Punjab & Delhi Railway. Several other rail lines were soon built, including the Indus Valley State Railway, Punjab Northern State Railway, Sind–Sagar Railway, Sind–Pishin State Railway, Trans–Baluchistan Railway and Kandahar State Railway. These six companies merged with the Scinde, Punjab & Delhi Railway to form the North Western State Railway in 1880. Between 1880 and 1947, the North Western State Railway expanded throughout Punjab and Sindh.
In 1947 following independence, most of the North Western State Railway infrastructure was in Pakistani territory and was renamed the Pakistan Western Railway. In East Bengal, the portion of the Assam Bengal Railway in Pakistani territory was renamed the Pakistan Eastern Railway. The country adopted 8,122 kilometres (5,047 mi) of the North Western State Railway; 6,880 kilometres (4,280 mi) was 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in), 506 kilometres (314 mi) was metre gauge, and 736 kilometres (457 mi) was 762 mm (2 ft 6 in) narrow gauge.
From 1950 to 1955 the Mashriq-Maghreb Express operated from Koh-e-Taftan in West Pakistan to Chittagong in East Pakistan, using Indian tracks and rolling stock for a 1986-km (1245-mile) route between Attari and Benapole. In 1954, a branch line was extended from the Karachi–Peshawar Railway Line to Mardan and Charsada. Two years later, the Jacobabad-Kashmore metre-gauge line was converted to 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge. The Kot Adu-Kashmore section of the Kotri–Attock Railway Line was built from 1969 to 1973, providing an alternate route from Karachi to northern Pakistan. In 1974, Pakistan Western Railways was renamed Pakistan Railways. In February 2006, the 126-kilometre (78 mi) Hyderabad–Khokhrapar Branch Line was converted to 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in). All narrow-gauge tracks in the country were converted to 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) or dismantled during 2000s. On 8 January 2016, the Lodhran–Raiwind Branch Line double-rail project was completed.
Pakistan Railways is a state-owned enterprise under the Ministry of Railways (MoR) of the government of Pakistan, tasked and primarily responsible for planning, administrating, and establishing passenger rail service and regulating railway companies and industries. Pakistan Railways policy and development are administered by the ministry. From 1947 to 1959, the Pakistan Western Railway and Pakistan Eastern Railway were administered by the Railway Division of the Ministry of Communications, headed by the Director General of Railways (DG Railways) in the ministry. In 1959, an ordinance was passed by Parliament outlining the need for a semi-autonomous railway board. The board was conceived in accordance with the principal powers of the central government as stipulated in the Railways Act IX of 1890. After the first session of the third national assembly, President Ayub Khan issued Presidential Order 33 on 9 June 1962. The order directed the transfer of control of both railways (PWR and PER) from the central government to the provincial governments of West Pakistan and East Pakistan, respectively. When PO 33 came into effect on 1 July 1962, railway boards were established by both provinces (repealing the Railway Board Ordinance of 1959).
The presidential order also reinstated the separation convention whereby railway finances were separated from general finances beginning with fiscal year 1961-62, giving each board greater autonomy. In 1974, the Ministry of Railways was created to administer planning, policy-making, technical advice and management of the railway. In 1982 the Ministry of Railways was merged with the Railway Board by a presidential order, resulting in the federal ministry.
The Railway Board, in existence from 1959 to 2000, was modified with an executive committee from 2000 and 2014. The Railway Board was reconstituted on 20 February 2015. The Board members are:
Pakistan Railways has three functional units: operations, manufacturing and welfare and special initiatives. The operations unit is divided into three main departments. The Infrastructure Department oversees civil engineering, signaling, telecommunications, design and the directorate of property. The Mechanical Engineering Department oversees mechanical engineering, purchasing, stores and electrical engineering, and the Traffic Department oversees passenger facilities, operations, marketing and the directorate of information technology. Several smaller departments, including personnel, railway police, planning, legal affairs, public relations and the Pakistan Railways Academy, are also part of the operations unit. The railway has seven territorial operating divisions: Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Peshawar, Quetta, Rawalpindi and Sukkur.
In January 2016, the railway ordered 800 hopper wagons from Jinan Railway Vehicles Equipment. The first 205 wagons will be built in China, and the remaining 595 wagons will be assembled at the Moghalpura Railway Workshops in Pakistan. The wagons will carry coal to power stations in Karachi and Qadirabad.
The Moghalpura Railway Workshops, on the Lahore–Wagah Branch Line at Moghalpura Junction railway station (MGPR) in Lahore, are one of several rolling-stock repair sites. The workshop complex emerged at its present site in 1904 to manufacture, repair and overhaul passenger coaches and freight wagons for the North Western State Railway. After Pakistan's independence in 1947, it was the only state-of-the-art workshop for Pakistan Railways.
The railway owns five concrete sleeper factories in Sukkur, Khanewal, Kohat, Shahinabad and Kotri. The first factory was established in Sukkur in 1967, and the other four factories were opened between 1979 and 1981.
The Pakistan Railways network is divided into main lines and branch lines. The Karachi-Peshawar line is the main north-south line, and the Rohri-Chaman line is the main east-west line.
Pakistan Railways owns 11,881 kilometres (7,383 mi) of track. All are 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) (broad gauge), except for some industrial lines. The broad-gauge track axle load limit is 22.86 tonnes, except for the Rohri-Chaman Line (limit 17.78 tonnes) and Quetta-Taftan Line (limit 17.27 tonnes). The maximum speed on most lines is 120 kilometres per hour (75 mph), but upgraded sections of the Karachi-Peshawar Line allow speeds up to 130 kilometres per hour (81 mph). Work is in progress to upgrade all main lines to 160 kilometres per hour (99 mph).
Passenger traffic is 50 percent of total annual revenue; in 1999-2000, this amounted to ₨4.8 billion (US$46 million). Pakistan Railways carried 52.2 million passengers in 2016 and operates 28 mail, express and passenger trains. The railway carries a daily average of 178,000 people, and provides special trains for Eid ul Fitr, Eid ul Azha, Independence Day and Raiwind Ijtema. It set up a website during the early 2000s to provide travelers with up-to-date information about seat availability, departures and arrivals. Online ticket purchase was added to the website in 2016, with reservations confirmed by SMS. Wi-Fi service is included on the Green Line Express.
Pakistan Railways has several classes of travel. Depending on the route, some trains have one class. Fares for the classes vary, with unreserved seating the least expensive. The following table lists the classes and codes:
|First Class Sleeper||ISL|
Pakistan Railways was the predominant mode of freight transportation from coastal ports to the interior. At their peak, between 1955 and 1960, PR handled 73 percent of the country's freight traffic (compared to less than four percent in 2015). The Freight Business Unit operates over 200 freight stations, including the Port of Karachi and Bin Qasim Port, and several dry ports in Pakistan's four provinces. With 12,000 employees, the unit generates revenue from the movement of agricultural, industrial and imported products such as petroleum oil and lubricants, wheat, coal, fertilizer, rock phosphate, cement and sugar from the ports to the interior.
On 14 August 2009, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani launched a freight train between Islamabad and Istanbul via Tehran. The first train carried 20 containers with a capacity of 750 t (738 long tons; 827 short tons), and made the 6,500 km (4,000 mi) trip from Islamabad to Tehran and Istanbul in two weeks. In 2015, freight carried by Pakistan Railways increased significantly to 3.3 million tons.
Pakistan Railways has been criticized for its deteriorating service and declining number of passengers and trains. The railway was the predominant mode of transportation in Pakistan until 1970s. At its peak between 1955 and 1960, PR handled 73 percent of the country's freight traffic (compared to less than four percent in 2015). During the 1970s, Pakistan Railways also had the largest passenger-transport share.
Unfortunately, its role as a catalyst for economic development has received a setback due to significant under-investment by successive governments who preferred investment in road infrastructure at the cost of railways. Declining passenger numbers and financial losses in the late 1980s and early 1990s prompted the closure of many branch lines and small stations. The 1990s saw steep cuts in rail subsidies and mismanagement in the company.
New rail lines have been proposed by Pakistan Railways to connect Gwadar Port to Central Asia, including:
Over 1,409 kilometres (876 mi) of tracks have been doubled since the track-doubling project began in the 1990s. Sections of the Karachi–Peshawar Line were first doubled, since it was the country's busiest and longest line.
In March 2010, the Pakistani government announced plans to privatise Pakistan Railways and split it into four businesses focusing on passenger operations, freight, infrastructure and manufacturing. In February 2010, "Unbundling" was proposed the previous month, with activities being outsourced, privatised, or operated separately. However, complete privatisation has been ruled out.
Pakistan Railways has faced financial and management crisis, and has met with private operators. Several trains are a public-private partnership. The Pakistan Business Express Train made its first run on 3 February 2012, and the Shalimar Express resumed operation on 25 February of that year.
China is involved in the development of Pakistan Railways, and has been increasing its stake in Pakistan's communications sector. Freight and passenger service make up 50 percent of the railway's total revenue. Pakistan Railways carries 65 million passengers annually and operates 228 mail, express and passenger trains daily. It introduced new mail and express trains between major terminals from 2003 to 2005. The railway has entered developmental agreements with Chinese rail companies. In 2001, Pakistan Railways signed a $91.89 million contract with China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation to manufacture 175 high-speed passenger coaches. The project was funded by Exim Bank of China on a supplier-credit basis. Forty passenger coaches have been received, and 105 were scheduled to be assembled in Pakistan Railways' carriage factory. The coaches are in use on Pakistan Railways' Rawalpindi-Lahore-Karachi, Lahore-Faisalabad and Rawalpindi-Quetta mail and express trains. The manufacturing kits for the remaining 30 coaches have been received, and 12 are assembled. The technology transfer for the coaches was obtained from China's Chang Chun Car Company.
Pakistan Railways purchased 69 locomotives, 15 of which are in use by the railway, as part of a 2003 agreement with China. The remaining 54 are scheduled to be built at Pakistan Railways' locomotive factory. The Chinese locomotives are 37 percent less expensive than European locomotives. Although some Pakistani observers have criticised faulty locomotives purchased by Pakistan Railways from Dongfang Electric of China, the railway decided to purchase 45 more 2,000-3,000-horsepower locomotives from Dongfang. The company is willing to redesign the 30 delivered locomotives, strengthening their underframes and reducing their weight below 140 tons each. The Beijing Research and Design Institute is committed to provide 300 rail cars to Pakistan Railways.
According to a 2004 agreement with China National Machinery and Equipment Group, the Chinese company would begin the construction of Corridor 1 of a light-rail mass-transit system in Karachi which is intended to serve four million commuters. The project, costing about $568 million, would take four-and-a-half years to complete. The contract, awarded on a build–operate–transfer basis, consists of five corridors. Pakistan signed a series of agreements with China to expand the capability of its railway system. Under an agreement with China Railway, a Chinese company would provide 1,300 freight cars to Pakistan Railways; 420 would be manufactured in China, and the remaining 880 would be produced at the Moghalpura Railway Workshops in Lahore. In another project, 450 passenger coaches would be rehabilitated at an estimated cost of Rs2.14 billion. This would include air-conditioning 40 coaches, converting 10 power vans and providing 100 high-speed bogies; 30 would be imported from China, and 70 would be manufactured domestically on a transfer-of-technology basis. In a separate agreement, 175 new passenger coaches are being purchased from China.
As part of a $100 million agreement signed by Pakistan and China in November 2001, China is to export 69 locomotives to Pakistan to modernize the country's rail fleet. The new engines consume less fuel than older models, and cost less to maintain. The first 15 engines would be manufactured in China, and the remainder would be assembled in Pakistan with Chinese parts and technology. For a Rs7.2 billion project Sindh laying 78,000 tons of rails, China delivered 64,000 tons to Pakistan Railways.
Pakistan awarded a Rs72 million (US$1.2 million) contract to an international consortium to conduct a feasibility study for establishing a rail link with China to improve trade between the countries. The study will cover a 750-kilometre (470 mi) section between Havellian and the 4,730-metre-high (15,520 ft) Khunjerab Pass over Mansehra District and the Karakoram Highway. Havellian is already linked with the Pakistani rail network; China would lay about 350 kilometres (220 mi) of track in China from Kashgar to the Khunjerab Pass, linking Pakistan with China's rail network (largely along the Karakoram Highway). By expanding its stake in Pakistan's rail sector, China can utilise the country's advantageous geographic position at the confluence of South, Central and West Asia. During the first week of February 2007, Pakistan Railways and Dongfang Electric signed an agreement to establish a rail link between Havellian and Khunjerab. The route from Havellian and Khunjerab will probably include tunnels. The pre-feasibility study was completed in July 2011.
As part of the development plan for its transport and communications network, Pakistan Railways has completed a feasibility study of the Chaman-Kandahar section for laying track between Pakistan and Turkmenistan through Afghanistan. A feasibility study for cost, engineering and design for the construction of a rail link from Gwadar to the existing rail network in Mastung district in Balochistan has been finalised. The link to the port of Gwadar will open underdeveloped areas of Balochistan to development. The chief aim of the venture is to connect the Central Asian republics with Pakistan Railways' network through Afghanistan.
China will benefit from Gwadar's accessible international trade routes to the Central Asian republics and China's Xinjiang border region. By extending its east-west railway from the Chinese border city of Kashgar to Peshawar in Pakistan's northwest, Beijing can trade freight to and from Gwadar along the shortest route (from Karachi to Peshawar). Pakistan's rail network could also supply oil from the Persian Gulf to Xinjiang and give China rail access to Iran.