LAHORE: Federal Minister for Railways Azam Khan Swati has said that he is ready to tender his resignation if it is enough to heal the wounds of victims and their families.
While addressing a press conference here on Wednesday at Railways Headquarters, he said that the eight-kilometre track where the incident occurred was maintained recently and it is unlikely that any fault in the track caused the accident, however, nothing could be claimed firmly till preparation of the final inquiry report.
It may be mentioned here that two passenger trains had collided near Daharki on Monday when a Millat Express heading from Karachi to Sargodha derailed and fell across the down track. Resultantly, it collided with Sir Syed Express coming from Rawalpindi.
The railways minister, giving updates on the casualties, said 63 lives were lost while 107 injured and 20 are under treatment. Three are in critical condition and admitted in the ICU, said Swati. The minister said relatives of the deceased will be given Rs1.5 million by the government as compensation, adding that every injured person will be provided Rs300,000 by authorities. All railways tickets bought on or after the accident are refunded, minister added.
Railways do not have the technology to improve its tracks as it required Rs60 billion for their total upgradation.
The minister said the black boxes from the trains had been retrieved but work had not yet started on them for the probe. He reassured that a thorough investigation will be conducted which will take at least three to four weeks. He said 22 railways employees were identified as responsible for the train accident in the initial inquiry.
The driver of Sir Syed Express didn’t get any chance to avoid a crash because of which more lives were lost, said the minister. He reiterated that although the train track was old, dating back to 1971, and it was not upgraded over the years. As per the initial probe, the track was functioning properly and the bogies were also shown to be within an acceptable working condition, he said.
Swati said one big factor identified in the initial probe was the late arrival of rescue train and we are responsible for this. Whoever is found responsible will have to pay for it and strict action would be taken against him, he warned.
In response to a question on the delay of officers arriving at the scene, the minister assured that it would be part of the inquiry.
When questioned about the inquiry’s neutrality, he said he had decided to appoint an experienced army officer with expertise in conducting investigations and another known for investigations in the aviation ministry. They will independently oversee the investigation, he explained.
Up-gradation of railways track will not only strengthen the economy of the country but it will also improve the means of communication and connectivity between the three provinces. He will discuss the issue of railways up-gradation with the prime minister, he said, adding that if an upgradation was not carried out; more lives could be lost in future.
Deploring the condition of the track, he said the coaches of PR are 50 years old and rehabilitated again and again with the passage of time he added.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021