KARACHI: The first of the two special Eid trains being run by Pakistan Railways departed from the City Station at 11am on Tuesday. With 15 carriages and about 1,200 passengers, most of whom boarded at the Cantonment Railway Station and Landhi, it will be reaching its last stop, Peshawar, on Wednesday night after passing through Hyderabad, Tando Adam, Nawabshah, Rohri, Sadiqabad, Rahim Yar Khan, Sialkot, Khanpur, Bahawalpur, Lodhran, Multan, Khanewal, Sahiwal, Kot Lakhpat, Lahore, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Rawalpindi, Taxila and Attock.
For the past two years the Eid train, which used to start its journey from the Cantonment Railway Station, now begins it from the City Railway Station, which may be smaller but happens to be more centrally located, making it accessible to people from that part of town.
There were two very happy little boys chasing each other in one carriage of the train as their mother holding their third brother tried persuading them to sit down. “I just hope they don’t get off before we leave, or at any other station after that,” she said and smiled while looking for someone. “I have my hands full with little Musab here. Hateem is seven years old and Mateen three-and-a-half. Hopefully they will tire soon and their Baba will be able to control them. They are so excited because it is their first time travelling in a train,” she said, adding that they were going to Bahawalpur to stay with the children’s paternal aunt over the Eid holidays.
There were several other families who had children with them looking forward to celebrating Eid with their relatives such as Madat Khan’s family though he was not going himself. “I have to stay back because I exhausted my share of holidays during my wife’s illness. She had an ulcer for which she was operated and I took a four-month leave to take care of her and things at home. Now I am glad that she is back on her feet and much better. My family deserves a holiday, so I am sending them to Peshawar for Eid. I don’t mind staying back and working,” he said.
Young Nifad Ahmed was also heading to Peshawar from where he was going to reach Swabi with his brother by car. “I study at the Iqra University in Karachi and I’m going home after four months. I had to stand in line to get the special Eid train tickets as there is too much rush of travellers around this time. Everyone seems to be going somewhere or the other. Thank God, I managed to get a seat,” he said as he loaded his luggage into a carriage with help from his uncle. Asked how come someone travelling alone had so much luggage, he laughingly said that Karachi is a big city and everyone at home expected him to get them presents. “On special demand, I even had to get sugar-free mithai for my mother,” he said.
Meanwhile, Shahzad travelling with friend Ashfaq Gul said that though it was good of Pakistan Railways to run special Eid trains to ease the load of travellers around this time of year, still they should have air-conditioned carriages and compartments in the special train considering how hot it is. “All the compartments are economy. The Eid train should also have AC Sleeper, AC Lower and Business Class compartments,” he said.
Speaking to Dawn on the matter, divisional superintendent, Pakistan Railways, Arshad Salam Khattak said that though the special Eid trains only had economy compartments, they had added extra AC Lower carriages to some of their regular trains. “That should be enough for people willing to pay more for air-conditioned travel,” he said. “The Eid train mostly caters to passengers from middle-class or lower-income homes who are looking for a reasonable mode of travel to meet their dear ones on the happy occasion,” he said. “We need to think about them first.”
Mr Khattak also shared that Pakistan Railways had two special Eid trains of which the second one would be leaving City Station also at 11am on Wednesday. “The Railways made Rs1500,000 from Eid train fare this time,” he said. “And 80 per cent of the money was made online through advance bookings.”
Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2018