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LAHORE: The Pakistan Railways has decided to resume operation of a cargo express train that used to run between Karachi and Faisalabad through Multan more than four-and-a-half years ago.

The Cargo Express (503-Up/504-Down) will be the second goods train that would resume its operation shortly, said an officer of the commercial wing of the railways on Saturday.

Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique had, on Nov 24, inaugurated resumption of the first Cargo Express (501-Up/502-Down) train after a lapse of more than three years.

“The 27-bogie cargo train is successfully running between Karachi and Badami Bagh stations of Lahore,” said the officer who sought anonymity.

Suspended in March 2010 due to shortage of locomotives, the second cargo express would initially be operated on alternate days.

Later, it might be run on a daily basis, subject to availability of cargo, said the officer.

The railways administration recently invited the contractors who previously were booking freight for the 27-bogie goods train. After negotiations, the former contractors agreed on per bogie per round-trip payment of Rs116,000 from Faisalabad and Rs101,000 from Multan.

The Faisalabad and Multan contractors said that they could load 11 and four bogies, respectively, for the time being. Some Lahore contractors were approached who promised to load 10 bogies from Faisalabad and two from Multan, said the officer and added that efforts to get the railways back on the rail had started bearing fruit.

Freight service is the major source of income for railways worldwide and the Pakistan Railways used to earn at least Rs6bn annually from the operation of eight to 10 freight trains from Karachi for various upcountry destinations daily.

However, shortage of locomotives in May 2011 had forced the railways administration to suspend all the cargo trains from Karachi. Suspension of passenger trains and availability of locomotives resulted in restoration of freight service of four trains daily in December the same year.

However, the freight service witnessed several ups and downs primarily due to locomotives shortage and the number of freight trains leaving Karachi remained one or two daily.

After a decade or so, a total of 16 freight trains left Karachi for various upcountry destinations on August 14 this year, heralding revival of the much-neglected Pakistan Railways.

Railways got a boost as five freight trains left Karachi for upcountry destinations in December last year.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2014