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Railways minister sees lack of resources as ‘real cause’ of Hazara Express tragedy

Railways and Aviation Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique on Monday termed a lack of resources as the “real cause” of yesterday’s Hazara Express tragedy, which claimed the lives of at least 30 people.

Ten bogies of Havelian-bound Hazara Express had derailed near Sarhari Railway Station in Sindh’s Sanghar district on Sunday, with Pakistan Railways (PR) officials stating the breakage of the railway line and hot axle, which jammed movement, as the reason.

However, Rafique had stated that the possibility of sabotage as well as a mechanical fault could not be ruled out. The minister had also termed the railway track to be fit.

Speaking at an event in Lahore today, Rafique said, “Yesterday, a very terrifying railway accident took place in which 30 precious lives were lost. This is a consequence of our lack of resources.”

Asserting that an investigation was under way and those responsible would be punished, he added, “But the real [issue] responsible [for it] is that we do not have resources. We are unable to maintain things.”

Noting that the incumbent government only had two days left in power — with the National Assembly set to dissolve on August 9 — the minister reiterated that an investigation was already under way from his side.

“Now, only two days are left. After that, the caretakers will come. We are investigating (the accident) and those found to be responsible will be punished.”

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the Sibbi-Harnai railway section later in the day, Rafique said that the preliminary inquiry report of the incident had arrived, wherein there was a “difference of opinion”.

He stated that it would take around 48 hours for the initial inquiry report that the public could be apprised of and in a week or so, the Railways Ministry would present a detailed report on the incident.

“Whoever is found to be responsible will not be left undealt with.”

Rafique expressed his immense grief on the incident and warned, “If the required investment is not made in the railways [sector] in Pakistan, then this already-established system will be absolutely ruined.”

He said that the railway ministry secretary and other senior officials were present at the site of the incident while others were supervising the matter from the railway headquarters.

The PML-N leader went on to assert that “no work was done on the Main-Line 1 in the past four years”. He noted that the Rohri-Kotli-Karachi section was the “most-affected area” of the ML-1 track, adding that yesterday’s incident also occurred in the same region.

“We are trying the best within our abilities to maintain this even without having the resources, but it is now imperative that work is started on ML-1 immediately.”

Referring to an agreement scheduled to be signed in October with Chinese authorities for the continuation of work on the ML-1 track, the minister said it was now the “responsibility of the upcoming government to start working on it proactively right after the agreement is signed”.

“While the future governments have to pay attention to road projects, they also have to pay attention to railway projects. If you compare the investment made in the two, there is no match.”

Efforts under way to restore up-country track

Meanwhile, the Sarhari station master said that efforts to restore the up-country track were under way while the down-country track was already restored for trains this morning.

He added that technical staff from the PR, police, Rangers and army soldiers were taking part in the restoration efforts while heavy machinery and cranes were also being used.

The Hazara Express had left Karachi at 7:35am on Sunday and crossed Karachi division’s last railway station, Tando Adam, 55 minutes late at around 12:30pm.

Following the accident, the Karachi-bound Green Line was halted at Nawabshah railway station, while the upcountry-bound Pakistan Express and Karakoram were held at Hyderabad railway station and Rehman Baba at Tando Adam railway station. Pak Business left the Karachi railway station after a delay of three hours.

Train operations on Main Line-1 were suspended, while other trains halted at major stations to care for passengers. Though the accident happened at the up-country track, PR officials said bogies also fell over the down-country track, suspending the flow of traffic.

PR officials had brought in cranes to remove wreckage from the track. The track was uprooted at a considerable stretch, and some bogies stood broken with pieces of their framework resting on the ground.