The railway is an important mode of transport the world over. Efficient rail transport plays an important role in the provision of passenger and freight traffic and the enhancement of the national economy. This article discusses rail transport with reference to Pakistan Railways.
What is rail transport?
The term ‘Rail transport’ refers to the vehicles that run on rails fitted on the tracks. Rail vehicles or trains are used for both passenger and freight traffic.
According to a 1998-99 survey, the total rail network in Pakistan is estimated to be around 12000km of track. There are almost 900 stations and 55 train halts. The railway track runs from Karachi to Peshawar through different cities and towns in both Sindh and Punjab. In Peshawar, a railway stretches out through Khyber Pass to the Pak-Afghan border. From the same track, another line stretches from Nowshera and ends at Dargai. Another railway line stretches from Sukkur towards Sibi and then to Quetta. At Quetta, two branches of railways emanate, one toward Chaman and the other towards Zahedan in Iran.
Areas with the dense railway network
The Railway network is best developed in Sindh and Punjab. Punjab has a dense railway network followed by Sindh. The reason for the development of railways in these provinces is that it is easy to lay and develop the railway track on plains than rugged mountainous regions.
Areas with the less dense railway network
Although, KPK and Balochistan have some railway tracks it hardly meets the overall needs of transportation in these provinces. Railways are absent in most parts of KPK i.e. Chitral, Swat, Kalam, Mingora, etc. Only the areas with plain terrain such as Peshawar, Bannu, and Kohat are accessible by railways. In Balochistan too, mountainous are inaccessible by railways. Rugged terrain and mountainous landscape is not the only reason for the underdevelopment of rail network. Lack of political will and neglect of these areas on part of the government is another reason.
Areas with the absence of railways
Railways are totally absent in AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan. These areas are mountainous where the development of railway tracks is very difficult. Places like Gilgit, Astore, Hunza, Baltistan, Chilas are not accessible by rail.
Multiple Gauge System
Gauge is the distance between the two rails. Based on this distance between the two rails, the railway tracks are classified into three gauge systems known as Broad Gauge System, Metre Gauge system, and Narrow Gauge System. Pakistan Railways is featured by all of these gauge systems as discussed below:
Broad Gauge System
In the broad Gauge System, the distance between both rails is 5 feet 3 inches wide. In Pakistan 11, 344 km of total 12, 625 km railway track is broad-gauged. This means almost 90% of the total track consists of Broad Gauged System.
Metre Gauge System
In Metre Gauge System the distance between both rails is 3 feet 3 inches wide. Only 555 km of total track has Metre Gauge System. Metre gauge system is fast diminishing with the modernization efforts of the government.
Narrow Gauge System
In Narrow Gauge System the distance between the two rails is 2 feet 6 inches. In Pakistan, 726 km of railway track consists of Narrow Gauge System.
The table given below illustrates the width of rails of each Gauge system and the length of the track consisted of each Gauge system.
|Broad Gauge||5 feet 3 inches wide||11, 344|
|Metre Gauge||3 feet inches||555|
|Narrow Gauge||2 feet 6 inches||12, 625|