LAHORE: Pakistan Railways (PR) has given free hand to private rail cargo contractors to loot the public as they please, as no specific rates for booking of luggage and parcels have been set, Pakistan Today has observed.
Beside freight trains, Pakistan Railways also provides the facility to public to book their luggage through rail cargo services for all its routes. For the purpose, most of the cargo service is being handled through the private sector on contract basis.
According to the sources, at least six cargo centres are run by private contractors at Lahore’s Railways Station where tonnes of luggage is booked for different cities on a daily basis. These cargo centres deliver the luggage through freight trains and cargo coaches attached with the passenger trains.
During a survey of Pakistan Today, it was learnt that private rail cargo centres were operating without any check or balance as they had not mentioned any rate for the booking of parcel or luggage. Beside this, not a single cargo centre has fixed rates. They usually bargain with the passenger prior to the booking when they demand for more money in case for early delivery.
When asked about the rates, a representative sitting in a cargo centre denied the observation and said that rates are informed after looking at the luggage. However, another cargo centre informed that they charge Rs10 per KG from Lahore to Rawalpindi station.
For other objects including motorbikes, electronics have been fixed by these contractors. Interestingly, with such items too, every cargo centre has its own rates. When it was inquired regarding the booking of a 125 CC motorcycle, rates varied from Rs 1700 to Rs 2500 from Lahore to Rawalpindi. Moreover, if someone needed urgent delivery, he was asked to pay more money which could be settled after bargaining.
On the other hand, at Lahore’s Railways Station, Pakistan Railways itself operates the cargo service but it has very limited space to facilitate those who want to book their luggage.
After approaching a cargo centre operating under Pakistan Railways, this scribe found that the rates were much less than those the private cargo centres were charging. It was informed that the rate for booking parcels weighing up to 50 KG were being charged Rs 190 to Rs 210. Similarly, this cargo centre also has fix rates for some kinds of luggage whereby a 125 CC bike is booked for Rs 570 from Lahore to Rawalpindi. However, Pakistan Railways’ cargo has limited space as it can book luggage through two passenger trains: Khyber Mail and Awam Express.
Sources informed that such private cargo operators are working like mafia and they have been given free hand to charge up to their convenience. “Railways has provided them space to book the luggage at entrance where they easily can stop the people who want their luggage to be booked,” they said and added that such contractors have strong links with high ups of the railways and they can easily arrange extra coaches to be attached with passenger trains in case of extra luggage.
Pakistan Railways’ Spokesperson Quratulain rejected that any the contractors working for PR was part of a mafia. Talking to Pakistan Today, she said that the department will take up the matter and will take action against them. She added that in the past, the department had taken action against parking contractors for over-charging.