RAWALPINDI, Aug 7: The Pakistan Railways has long been struggling to attract passengers disappointed by its poor service, especially the late arrival and departure of trains, but the cut in fare on Eid has done the trick.
Unlike the past when people used to travel on private transport vehicles to their hometowns to celebrate Eid, this year the railway station attracted a large crowd as it provided cheaper travel rates to the public.
The official four-day Eid holidays will begin on Thursday (today), and most people who are not locals have already left for their native towns to celebrate the religious festival with their families.
People started turning up at the city’s railway station early on Wednesday morning, but their numbers swelled considerably at noon when the public and private offices closed for Eid.
A delay in the departure of trains was also reported because of the increased number of people.
To cope with the large number of commuters and to ensure the passengers’ convenience, the railway authorities launched several trains with additional coaches attached to them.
These trains will travel from Rawalpindi to Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and Multan, and are equipped with three additional coaches; one AC coach and two sleeper coaches.
Syed Munawar Shah, the divisional superintendent of Pakistan Railways (PR) Rawalpindi, said the administration had made special arrangements for Eid. He said no special train would be launched from Rawalpindi except one for Lahore, which would depart at 11:00pm on Thursday.
Instead, he said the authorities had attached 12 extra coaches ( 3 each) with the usual trains to Lahore, Multan, Quetta and Karachi to cater for the increased demand.
He admitted that there had been mismanagement while the train tickets were being issued, adding that he had directed the reservation office and the ticket booths to adopt a “first come first serve” policy.
He said the shortage of seats had created problems for commuters who had to wait on the platform.
The railway official said the PR police, in collaboration with the city police, had ensured strict security at the railway station in the wake of recent terror attacks in the country.
He said only passengers who had purchased the tickets were allowed to proceed to the platforms after passing through metal detectors.
Regarding the earnings which the railways made following the reduction in price on August 3, Mr Shah said, “To Lahore, 1,500 passengers traveled daily since August 3, resulting in a daily earning of Rs4.6 million from the four Lahore-bound trains.”
Similarly, he said trains for Karachi earned Rs1.431 million per day as almost 1,400 passengers daily traveled via the three trains.
For Quetta, 350 passengers traveled daily from Rawalpindi, from which the Railways earned Rs3.1 million per day. Likewise, Rs300,000 were earned from the 600 passengers that traveled daily to Multan, he said.
Mr Shad added that the railway minister, Khawaja Saad Rafique, had directed the administration to open four to six counters for the sale of tickets instead of the usual two.
“A further 50 percent discount on all tickets will be given by the railway authorities on the two days of Eid,” he said.
Meanwhile, passengers were happy in the reduction of fares but also expressed concern over the facilities being provided by the railway authorities.
They asked the administration to improve services and follow the time table so that passengers were attracted to the railway stations.
Some passengers also complained that tickets were being blacked, and water was not available in public toilets or at the platform’s mosque.
Nasir Javed, who was leaving for Lahore, said he preferred traveling on a train along with his family. “The private transporters usually overcharge and misbehave with people, especially on occasions such as Eid or other festivals,” he said.
Similarly, Waseem Warriach, who was waiting to board the Multan-bound train, said he opted to travel via train as the fares were economical when compared to the private transport fares.
“With a family of five, it is difficult to spend more than Rs5,000 to travel in one direction via private transport,” he said.