After nearly 200 major and minor train accidents that have caused hundreds of casualties since the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) took reins of the country in 2018, Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan has said that the role of Pakistan Railways is “crucial” in the journey to Naya Pakistan.

Speaking at the inauguration of the Hassan Abdal Railway Station in Attock, the premier underlined that across the world, trains were a cheap and comfortable way to travel.

“Railways are important because it’s a commute for the poor and common people of Pakistan,” he said.

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“Unfortunately, we did not develop the railway system provided by the British,” PM Imran said, adding that for the first time, the largest investment to Pakistan Railways was coming through the ML-1.

ML-1 or Main Line 1 is one of the four main railway lines in Pakistan. The Karachi-Peshawar Railway Line begins from Karachi City station or Kiamari Station and ends at Peshawar Cantonment Station. The total length of this line is 1,687 kilometers with 184 railway stations.

The line serves as the main passenger and freight line of the country as it is used by 75% of both sorts of rail traffic. It is currently undergoing a six-year Rs886.68 billion upgrade and renovation as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with average rail speeds expected to be doubled to 160 kilometers per hour upon completion.

The premier said the journey from Karachi to Lahore through ML-1 would come down to seven hours, and the project “will be an important step towards self-reliance”.

Railways would play an important role in Pakistan’s economic development, he remarked.

RAILWAYS SINCE 2018:

While the premier has highlighted the significance of railways for the materialisation of his dream of a new Pakistan, it merits a mention that a significant spike in train accidents over the past two years has further marred the department’s safety record.

According to Dawn, over 100 train-related incidents, including some fatal accidents took place in 2019 besides 111 incidents of engine failure within the first five months of the year alone.

These come on top of minor derailment incidents at least one of which is reported every week with the last reported three weeks ago near Ghotki in Sindh.

Here’s a list of major untoward incidents involving trains since 2018…

September 16, 2018:

Nine bogies of the Peshawar-bound Khushal Khan Khattak Express from Karachi derailed near Attock. 20 passengers were injured.

September 27, 2018:

Another Peshawar-bound train derailed in which 11 bogies overturned in Sehwan, Sindh.

December 18, 2018:

At least 12 children were injured as a passenger train crashed into a school van near Narowal in Punjab. Local witnesses said the accident happened due to dense fog and because the gate at the crossing was left open.

June 9, 2019:

As many as 23 bogies of a Karachi-bound freight train derailed in Sukkur.

June 20, 2019:

Three people were killed when a passenger train collided with a stationary cargo train in Makli Shah near Hyderabad.

July 11, 2019:

A Quetta-bound train collided with a cargo train near Sadiqabad in Punjab, killing 24 people and injuring over 100 others. The accident was later found to be caused by a delay in switching the train tracks.

October 31, 2019:

Fire engulfed a train near Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab, killing 65 people. The cause of the incident was discovered to be a gas explosion. A canister had been carried by passengers to cook on the train amid the authorities’ failure to keep a check on the travellers’ luggage.

February 28, 2020:

At least 19 people were killed when a train collided with a passenger bus near Sindh’s Rohri.

July 3, 2020:

At least 20 people died and ten others were injured when Shah Hussain Express collided with a bus near Sachcha Sauda Railway Station in Sheikhupura. Most victims were members of the Pakistani Sikh community.