ISLAMABAD, Aug 27: Citizens of Islamabad had long been dreaming of a decent bus service in the city. But they better switch to dreaming of a rail link to Murree, for that is the new buzzword in the Capital Development Authority (CDA).

Unfortunately, no official was willing to elaborate on the buzzword on record, although CDA spokesman Dr Naeem Rauf did concede that “the project is in a very nascent stage.”

“Discussions (on laying a railway track to the hill resort) are at the primary level.

For the time being, we cannot offer you a brief on the matter,” he told Dawn.

A senior government official said the idea “came floating” from the office of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. No big surprise, but the official would not disclose his name.

A CDA official disclosed in a similar fashion that “all that our chairman, Nadeem Hasan Asif, has advised us is that we are to clear the encroachments alongside the stretch of the Bhara Kahu Road within the territorial jurisdiction of Islamabad.”

That would be clearing the way for the Pakistan Railways to extend technical expertise to establish a narrow gauge rail link to Murree.

“We are not aware of the operational details like the originating and terminating points of the rail link,” the official said. One resourceful source claimed that the Punjab government was participating in the project.

“It is one of the dream projects of the PML-N government and is aimed at benefiting the people living in Murree,” the source said.

“Once the environmental study is done, Pakistan Railways’ engineers will start work on the project,” claimed the official.

When pointed out that the railway was in a financial crisis, the source said, “The federal government will pool in its resources to fund the project since it is aimed at attracting tourists. Ultimately, that will help turn the fortunes for the authority as well as for the railways.”

But the source admitted that “it would be a very costly venture for the federal government.”

Technically, the project should be feasible as Murree is situated at a height of 2,291 metres and in 1906 the British India government had successfully laid such a track to Shimla situated at a height of 2,200 metres.

“We are eyeing Chinese assistance in this regard,” the source said.

When approached, Pakistan Railways director general operations Aftab Shah maintained: “We have no clue about the project. However, Pakistan Railways mainly provide technical expertise to the local development bodies in laying such a track mainly for tourism purposes.”

He added: “We have recently provided such a facility for a metro-train service in Karachi and have the capacity to also provide the service to the CDA,” remarked Mr Shah.

He informed Dawn that laying such a track on high altitude was not an impossible task.

A Punjab government official said the feasibility study of the project would also start soon. “We cannot comment on the cost of the project until the concerned departments like the CDA or the Pakistan Railways complete the feasibility study.”

International firms will be invited to bid for the joint venture project, according to the official.

Opinion

Editorial

A new operation
Updated 25 Jun, 2024

A new operation

Clear deterrent action is needed against terrorist groups, but without upending the lives of people in the affected areas.
Power theft
25 Jun, 2024

Power theft

FEDERAL Energy Minister Awais Leghari’s statement during a TV interview that electricity theft amounts to Rs600bn ...
Fatal air
25 Jun, 2024

Fatal air

TOXIC air can cost us our children. It causes life-threatening illnesses, inflicts lifelong damage and leads to ...
Time for dialogue
Updated 24 Jun, 2024

Time for dialogue

If the PML-N and PTI remain mired in mutual acrimony, an ever-widening gap will continue to allow non-political forces to assert themselves.
Property taxes
24 Jun, 2024

Property taxes

ACCORDING to reports in the local media, along with the higher taxes imposed on real estate in the recent budget, ...
Fierce heat
24 Jun, 2024

Fierce heat

CLIMATE change is unfolding as predicted by experts: savage heat, melting glaciers, extreme rainfall, drought, ...