PLANS are on course for conversion of Pakistan Railways to a corporation at the end of July, Railways Minister Mian Shamim Haider announced on June 20.

The minister said the plans were awaiting approval by the federal cabinet. The Railways Board is to be abolished and a new Chief Executive will be appointed to head the corporation. Under the current five-year plan, PR is expected to break even on its operating costs this year and move into profit by 2007. In the first nine months of the year passenger traffic increased by 8% and freight rose by 14%. Traffic is expected to grow by up to 8% next year.

PR’s 2005-06 budget presented by Finance Minister Omar Ayub Khan on June 6 envisages total expenditure of Rs1098bn, which is 20% higher than 2004-05. Ongoing investment projects will account for Rs30bn, with a further Rs9·8bn allocated for 12 new schemes to be completed in 2007-12. These include double-tracking from Khanewal to Raiwind and Shahdara to Lalamusa, increasing speeds on the Karachi - Lalamusa line to 140 km/h and building a branch from the Taftan - Quetta line to a planned container terminal at Gwadar port.

On the rolling stock front, PR plans to buy 75 new diesel locos and rehabilitate 36 others. It will also order 25 electric locos of 3000 kW at a cost of Rs4·8bn and refurbish another 29. A further Rs5·3bn is allocated for 1000 high-capacity freight wagons and 100 coaches. The Lahore - Khanewal line is to be electrified, and around 1200 km of track will be upgraded.