After months of dilly-dallying, India has finally agreed to sell and lease out its locomotives to Pakistan, thus helping the neighbouring country restart its defunct train services.
In the first-of-its-kind deal, the Indian Railways will deliver 50 refurbished American Locomotive Company (ALCO) technology locos at an estimated cost of Rs. 350 crore.
Another set of 50 new locos of a higher horsepower (3000-3500) will also be leased out. Lease charges of Indian locomotives work out to Rs. 900 per hour or Rs. 21,600 per day.
Pakistan is expected to get delivery of the first instalment of 10 refurbished engines of 2,000-2,600 horsepower capacity sometime next year.
The proposed arrangement will include a liberalised visa regime for Indian engineers who will be required to visit Pakistan for training purposes.
While yearly maintenance of engines is proposed to be done at the Indian Railways shed at Ludhiana, the Pakistan government has agreed to ramp up facilities at its railway shed at Mughalpura near Lahore.
Running 19,000 trains over a 54,000-kilometre network each day, the Indian Railways is hugely stressed for train engines.
"But the production units will churn out train engines in bigger numbers in the coming years. Issues with Pakistan have now been sorted out. We will shortly start working on the modifications and fix up the used locos to be delivered to Pakistan," officials said.
With 137 of its fleet of 494 locos dysfunctional, train operations in Pakistan have virtually collapsed and annual losses worth a whopping R25 billion have been reported. In the last four years, the Pakistan government has provided Rs. 93 billion subsidy to its railways department, Rs. 32 billion as assistance for development projects and Rs. 14 billion as overdraft from the State Bank of Pakistan, railways minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour said recently.