Final decision to resume nation-wide train operations to be taken on Wednesday: Sheikh Rasheed

Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed has said a final decision regarding resumption of train operations in the country will be announced by Wednesday after a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan.

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“If we resume train operations after 15 days, people will climb aboard roofs of trains [for travel] and then the public will taunt me that Sheikh Rashid is responsible for spreading the virus,” the railways minister told the media on Sunday.

The minister added that if permission to resume operations by Wednesday was not given, he would have to tell the railway authorities to refund Rs24 million to the people within 15 days.

“What is the issue with running just one train Jaffer Express in Balochistan,” he said, adding that train operations will resume only if Karachi’s tracks are opened.

“Railways does not only belong to Punjab, but to the entire country. I appeal to the prime minister to resume train operations. We are going into a deficit because this is a means of transportation for the poor,” he said.

Rashid added he was waiting for a decision by the prime minister. “I can take the decision to resume train operations myself; however, the prime minister has not given me permission to do this.”

He added that he could not work on the SOPs the day after tomorrow. “If you give me permission [to resume train operations] today or tomorrow, I can work on SOPs. After that, I cannot,” he noted.

The federal minister added if train operations do not resume in the next two days, railways authorities will have to apologise to the people. “We have to give pensions and salaries to people before Eid.

Earlier, DS Lahore had said they would resume train operations across the country as soon as the green signal is received.

“Thirty trains from four provinces will become operational as soon as we have the go-ahead,” he said. “No passenger will be allowed to enter the station without taking any safety precautions. Passengers have been asked to make sure they are wearing face masks, gloves and have sanitizers.”

He said that social distancing guidelines will be strictly followed. “The railway staff has been issued directions to strictly follow SOPs. Vending owners have also been told to take strict care of keeping their stalls cleans.”

A day earlier, the railways minister had appealed to Prime Minister Imran Khan to allow the resumption of rail operations ahead of Eid, saying that delays may result in a worsening of the economic crisis.

If no decision is taken by the incumbent government in the coming week, the railways authorities will not be able to control the rush at train stations across the country ahead of Eid, he had warned.

“People have made bookings worth Rs240 million because of Eid-ul-Fitr and are constantly asking us to resume train services,” the minister had said, adding that after the coming week, railways will have to return payments even though it is already going through a severe crisis and a default would be unbearable for the institution.

The federal minister went on to add that people who have booked tickets in advance will be given priority as soon as train services are resumed in the country.

Referring to precautionary measures against the contagious coronavirus, Rashid had said that trains have already been disinfected and briefing to the staff members regarding the issued SOPs had also been given.

“We do realise that resumption of train services will multiply our responsibilities in terms of ensuring the safety and well-being of passengers. However, we are ready to take up our duties,” he had said.

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