Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmad Monday said Prime Minister Imran Khan has given the permission to partially resume train services from Wednesday on the condition that standard operation procedures (SOPs) were adhered to as the country battles the novel coronavirus.
Rashid, addressing a press conference, said: “No one will be allowed inside the stations without having a ticket. Nearly 7,000 police officers have been deployed at [the stations in] Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, and Quetta and an emergency has been imposed.”
Police officials, he added, would ensure that people do not enter stations without tickets.
“Divisional head will be held responsible in case of violation of the SOPs and action will be taken against him,” the federal minister noted.
Rashid said a “rehearsal” has been scheduled at all the stations tomorrow (Tuesday).
“If the situation [of the coronavirus pandemic] remains stable during the current month, then all train services will be resumed across the country from June 1,” Rashid, said, adding, “I am grateful to [NDMA Chairperson] Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal, [Federal Minister for Planning and Development] Asad Umar, [Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue] Hafeez Shaikh, in this regard.”
The railways minister said that he would visit Peshawar tomorrow to review the measures taken, while day after tomorrow he would see off the green line train.
He said that he would also review the situation at other stations to “ensure” that the SOPs and other safety measures were being followed.
“I have no differences with the provinces in this regard,” he said, adding: “We will need their support outside the railway stations.”
The minister informed that there was no age restriction for the passengers and that he was supervising all the procedures himself.
“We were suffering losses worth Rs5 billion per month due to the closure of train services,” he said.
There have been no changes in the freight rate, he said, while noting that India had “doubled the fare”. “We have not reduced the fares because the number of passengers has been cut down but by 50%,” he said.
Rashid refuted the rumors about a “conspiracy” being hatched against the federal government and said: “You should ask those who came here for conspiring and now their name is in the blacklist and will be soon in the Exit Control List.”
The minister said that the political atmosphere of the country would change after Eid-ul-Fitr. “I do not expect a change in the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance and even if there is one, I won’t support it.”
Decision taken ‘without consulting Sindh’
Later in the day, Sindh Transport Minister Awais Shah said Monday’s decision to resume train services was taken without consulting the southern province and demanded that Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid should resign if the SOPs were not followed.
“We are not against resumption of train services […] If the institution is facing a loss, will it be compensated with the lives of the people?”
Shah added that there was a “contradiction” in the railways minister’s statements.
Talking about the inter-city transport, he said the government was in talks with the transporters in this regard.
“Several sectors have been reopened without taking Sindh into confidence,” he added.