Back on track?

FRIDAY'S derailment of a goods train near Padidan station in Sindh has been blamed on 'issues' with the track, reigniting the old debate about the need to reform the train infrastructure in the country. The incident badly affected rail traffic over vast areas between Karachi and Peshawar for several hours. On Saturday, the railways minister held a news conference in Lahore at which, along with going through the usual exercise of listing the steps taken by his government to prop up the sagging rail system in the country, he wistfully recalled what could have been done to avoid the predicament the train service faces today. Quite naturally, there was mention of the much-anticipated Main Line-1 plan that is considered vital to not just Pakistan Railways' future health, but also to its very existence.

The minister was right when he pointed to the almost obsessive focus of the railways department on ML-1. But, at this stage, the focus is likely to remain in all plans to revive the railways. Indeed, others before Shaikh Rashid, too, have spoken equally loudly about the state of the railways and of plans to fix it. After years of rhetoric, however, the main solution seems to lie in the execution of ML-1 under CPEC the experts seemed to have been agonising hopelessly until they took note of what they see as a financially viable option. It could pull the railways out of years of neglect and exploitation and help it shrug off its lethargy...

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