Pakistan Railways (reporting mark PR) (Urdu: پاکستان ریلویز ) is a national state-owned rail transport service of Pakistan, head-quartered in Lahore. It is administered by the federal government under the Ministry of Railways. Pakistan Railway provides an important mode of transportation throughout Pakistan. It is commonly referred to as the "life line of the country", by aiding in large-scale movement of people and freight throughout Pakistan.The idea of a rail network was first thought of in 1847, with the possibility of Karachi becoming a major seaport. Sir Henry Edward Frere, who was appointed as the Commissioner of Sindh, sought permission from Lord Dalhousie to begin a survey for a Karachi Seaport and a survey for a railway line in 1858. The proposed railway line would be laid from Karachi (city) to Kotri. A steamboat service on the Indus and Chenab rivers would connect Kotri to Multan and from there another railway line would be laid to Lahore and beyond.
On 13 May 1861, the first railway line was opened to the public, between Karachi and Kotri, with a total distance of 169 kilometres (105 mi). Lahore-Multan 336 kilometres (209 mi) railway line was opened for traffic on 24 April 1865. On 6 October 1876 three bridges on the Ravi, Chenab and Jhelum rivers were completed and Lahore-Jhelum railway line opened. On 1st July 1878 Lodhran-Pano Akil 334 kilometres (208 mi) section on main railway line was inaugurated.
By 1886, there were four railway companies operating in what would become Pakistan. The Scinde (Sindh) Railways, Indian Flotilla Company, Punjab Railway and Delhi Railways. These were amalgamated into the Scinde, Punjab & Delhi Railways Company and purchased by the Secretary of State for India in 1885, and in January 1886 formed the North Western State Railway, which was later on renamed as North Western Railway (NWR). It was renamed Pakistan Western Railway in February 1961 and Pakistan Railways in May 1974.
It was the year 1857 when the idea was suggested by William Andrew (Chairman of Scinde, Punjab and Delhi Railway) that the railways to the Bolan Pass would have strategic role in responding to any threat by Russia. During the second Afghan War (1878–80) between Britain and Afghanistan, a new urgency was needed to construct a Railway line up to Quetta in order to get easier access to the frontier. On 18 September 1879, under the orders of Viceroy council, work begun on laying the railway tracks and after four months the first 215 km of line from Ruk to Sibi was completed and become operational in January 1880. Beyond Sibi the terrain was very difficult. After immense difficulties and harsh weather conditions, it was March 1887 when the railway line of over 320 km long finally reached Quetta.
On 27 October 1878 Kotri-Sukkur railway line on west bank of Indus river was opened for traffic. The Lansdowne Bridge over Indus connecting Rohri and Sukkur was inaugurated on 25 March 1989. The completion of this bridge connected Karachi with Peshawar by rail.
By 1898, as the network began to grow, another proposed railway line was in the works from Peshawar to Karachi. It closely followed the route taken byAlexander The Great and his army while marching through the Hindu Kush to the Arabian Sea. During the early 20th century, railway lines were also laid down between Peshawar and Rawalpindi and Rawalpindi to Lahore. Different sections on the existing main line from Peshawar and branch lines were constructed in the last quarter of 19th century and early 20th century.
In 1947, at the time of independence, 3,133 route kilometres (1,947 mi) of North Western Railway were transferred to India, leaving 8,122 route kilometres (5,048 mi) to Pakistan. Of this 6,880 route kilometres (4,280 mi) were Broad gauge, 506 kilometres (314 mi) were Metre gauge, and 736 kilometres (457 mi) were Narrow gauge.
In 1954, the railway line was extended to Mardan and Charsada, and in 1956 the Jacobabad-Kashmore 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) gauge line was converted into broad gauge. In 1961, the Pakistani portion of North Western Railways was renamed Pakistan Railways. The Kot Adu-Kashmore line was constructed between 1969 and 1973 providing an alternative route from Karachi to northern Pakistan. In February 2006 the Mirpur Khas-Khokhrapar 126 km metre gauge railway line was converted to broad gauge .
Pakistan Railways has been the subject of a number of investigations by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Pakistan’s elite anti-corruption agency, after concerns were raised about contracts relating to the repair, upgrade and purchase of locomotives; unauthorised payments of over Rs220 million from its Accounts Department; the disposal of scrap; and the theft of consignments from cargo trains. In 2012 it was reported that these cases were referred to the NAB for investigation by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
In March 2012, Pakistan Railways’ ex-General Manager, was arrested by the NAB on charges of misuse of authority and alleged involvement in the misappropriation of Rs600 million, relating to the sale of scrap at a below market value rate. In 2002, there was report compiled by some foreign investors about the assets of Pakistan Railways which estimates 18000 Billion USD but it was not confirmed by Government of Pakistan. According to the government resource, it worths more than the estimation.
Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour is also involved in corruption and he has been named in a multi-billion scrap scandal, currently being investigated by National Accountability Bureau (NAB). He also allotted railway Dining cars to their Friends & Party Workers without tender. He has strong allegations from peoples that he is destroying railways to support Transport Mafia.
Pakistan Railways had a mixture of gauges, including Indian or broad gauge (1,676 mm/5 ft 6 in), metre gauge (1,000 mm/3 ft 3 3⁄8 in), and narrow gauge (762 mm/2 ft 6 in). A few metre gaugeand narrow gauge railway lines have been converted into broad gauge, and the remaining lines have been dismantled or abandoned. Now only broad gauge railway lines are operational in Pakistan Railways network.
Pakistan Railways broad gauge track axle load limit is 22.86 tonnes except Rohri-Quetta & Quetta-Chaman railway lines on which axle load limit is 17.78 tonnes and Spezand-Zahedan railway line on which axle load limit is 17.27 tonnes.
The maximum Speed of Pakistan Railways is 120 km/h. Some sections of Karachi-Lahore main railway line allow 120 km/h speed. Work is in progress to improve railway track on Karachi-Khanpur section to increase speed to 140 km/h.