Sunday, January 30, 2011

Intermodal Cargo Terminal Rail Service Begins - As Freight Rates Rise 20 Percent

Railways Deficit Subject to Two Prong Attack - But Where Will the Money Come From?
Shipping News Feature

PAKISTAN – Loss making Pakistan Railways have taken steps to improve their finances by upping rates for both passenger and freight customers – in the case of cargo carriage by a massive 20%. The increase will apply from the 1st February and was apparently levied after government approval with Ashfaq Ahmad Khatak the General Manager Operations of Pakistan Railways saying that to assist customers the hike had been restricted to ‘only’ 20%.

At the same time rail freight services have commenced at the intermodal terminal or ‘Dry Port’ at Prem Nagar 48 kilometres South of Lahore according to Pakistan Railways who are developing the project with private partners. The initial run was made from Karachi carrying a mix of cargoes into the 140 acre site which sees Pakistan Railways managing and developing the infrastructure of the multi modal site whilst handling, warehousing and customs clearance of general cargo and containers will be undertaken by private companies.

The scheme has reportedly cost in excess of $20 million and is to be developed mutually for 35 years when ownership of all port assets will become the property of the railway. Pakistan Railways however have been the subject of much speculation and criticism of late. After recently bouncing a cheque on their fuel supplier in the amount of $8 million, the company received a $ 1.3 billion bail out from the Government to free up stranded trains and acquire new equipment and improve infrastructure.

Recently the local press reports nevertheless persist in reporting the group has also been seeking financial assistance from Dawood Ibrahim, known locally as ‘India’s Most Wanted’ and allegedly under investigation by Interpol regarding terrorist activities, who runs his vast business empire from a base in Karachi and is implicated in the 1993 Bombay bombings and the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Ibrahim is the fourth most wanted man in the world with links to Al-Qaeda and is the cause of much of the tension between India and Pakistan.

Photo:- Loading a shipping container aboard a Pakistan Railways freight wagon.