Most of the railway lines in Pakistan were built by British colonial rulers prior to independence of the country. The first railway line on Pakistani territory was built and opened for public in 1861. This line stretched from Karachi to Kotri, 105 miles.
Because of a number of reasons deadly railway mishaps have become common in the country, and the reasons include ramshackle tracks, ancient signaling system, untrained and inexperience staff and negligence. According to a report at least 79 small and big accidents have taken place since Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed took charge of the office. The accidents not only inflict huge financial losses but losses of precious human lives as well.
Here is the timeline of deadly railway accidents since 2000
March 17, 2002: At least seven people died and about 15 others were wounded as a result of derailment of a passenger train in Sheikhupura
Sept 27, 2002: An incident of train derailment near Sibbi claimed seven lives and left 57 others injured. The train was derailed when a railway bridge caved in.
Sept 21, 2003: An incident of ferocious collision between a train and a bus in Mandi Bahauddin left 28 people dead and 10 others injured.
July 13, 2005: At least 130 people were killed and about 170 others got wounded when three trains collided near Sukkur.
Jan 30, 2006: Four people died and 40 others got wounded when a train derailed and its six bogies plunged into a ravine near Jhelum.
Dec 19, 2007: At least 50 people were killed and over 200 injured when a train derailed near Naushahro Feroze.
Nov 3, 2009: Eighteen people died and 45 others hurt when a train collided with a freight train in Karachi.
Aug 30, 2011: Khyber Mail rammed into a stationary passenger train in Lahore leaving three people dead and 19 others injured.
July 26, 2013: Two people died and many others were injured when a train derailed near Gujranwala.
November 11, 2014: At least 58 people were killed when a train and collided near Khairpur.
July 3, 2015: The incident of bridge collapse near Gujranwala claimed 19 lives, including four of army officials, as three coaches of the train fell into a canal.
July 20, 2015: Six of a family died as a result of collision between their car and a train near Matiari.
Nov 1, 2015: Derailment of a train travelling between Rawalpindi and Quetta killed 19 passengers.
Sept 1, 2016: A passenger train collided with a goods train in Multan killing six people and injuring about 150 others.
Sept 16, 2016: Seven people were killed and 100 others in separate train accidents in Punjab. Four were killed when a passenger train collided with a freight train near Multan, while three others died when a car collided with a train near Fateh Jang.
Oct 8, 2016: At least four people died and 10 others were wounded when a goods train collided head-on with a passenger bus near Gujjar Chowk.
Jun 20, 2019: Three people were killed and several others wounded when a goods train collided with a passenger train near Hyderabad.
Jul 11, 2019: At least 16 people lost their lives and about 84 others were wounded in an accident between a passenger train and a goods train in Sadiqabad.
Measures taken by Pakistan Railways to improve conditions
Thus, the railways infrastructure needs drastic improvements to avoid deadly incidents in the future. Though, the Pakistan Railways has taken some steps to improve conditions of the railway system, but they seem insufficient.
Pakistan Railways has punished 1,218 staffers for serious negligence in different train accidents in country from 2003 to 2018.
According to the PR documents, the department removed 24 officials from service, dismissed 16 staffer, forcefully retired 36 persons, demoted 189 persons, 723 officials were punished with withholding of increment, 171 persons censured, 45 employees were issued warnings while 14 staffers expired.
According to a report in May last year, the Punjab government had set aside Rs610.2 million for up-gradation of 75 weak level crossings and the Sindh government had allotted Rs87 million to upgrade 15 most vulnerable crossings.
In an announcement it March, PR said timely refresher courses and safety seminars were also being arranged to enhance the professional knowledge of the staff and auto train protection system was also underway to minimize such accidents as this system applied brake automatically if the drivers of train failed to respond to red signal.
According to guidelines, a professional knowledge testing schedule should be observed after every six months for drivers particularly of Multan, Lahore, Sukkur, and Karachi divisions working with auto block signaling, the document said.
Joint certificate to this effect would be issued by the Divisional Signal Engineer and Divisional Mechanical Engineer certifying competency of driver especially regarding the knowledge of auto block signaling.
Road surface of all level crossings was being improved together with improved warning boards and provision of reliable communication (VHF radio) between ground staff and locomotives crew.
The Directorate of Public Relations had produced video messages for circulations over social media to inform the public about the dangers associated with railway crossings, it said. Pakistan Railways was going to eliminate all level crossings on Main Line-I (Karachi to Peshawar) by providing under passes and flyovers under China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Railways Police: Pakistan Railways Police is facing shortage of around 1,779 personnel of different cadres against the sanctioned posts and the Ministry of Railways is trying to fill the vacant posts at the earliest.
According to a report appeared in The News, as many as 11 personnel were working in the Bomb Disposal section against the approved strength of 24, which shows shortage of 13 personnel, adding that 55 officials were working against the sanctioned strength of 62 personnel of Class-IV.
Regarding the duties of the Pakistan Railways Police, they said that protection of railway property, crime control, maintenance of law and order, counter terrorism, assistance to railway passengers and labour union activities were the prime responsibility of the railway police.