Passengers turn to train after closure of airspace

Updated March 01, 2019

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An official says 70pc of seats are usually booked on Lahore-bound trains but in the last two days 100pc had been booked.— Khurrum Shahzada/File
An official says 70pc of seats are usually booked on Lahore-bound trains but in the last two days 100pc had been booked.— Khurrum Shahzada/File

RAWALPINDI: With Pakistan’s airspace closed amid heightened tension between India and Pakistan, many passengers turned to Pakistan Railways to make their trips to Karachi, Lahore and other parts of the country.

The Railways Rawalpindi division received a higher number of passengers in the last two days as a result, forcing the management to arrange more coaches for Karachi-bound trains to cater to demand.

The Green Line train from Islamabad to Karachi, which typically sees 280 passengers a day, was at full capacity in the last week, with 324 seats and two to three additional coaches.

Pakistan Express and Tazgam also brought passengers in additional coaches, while the Quetta and Mehar Express trains also brought more passengers than usual.

Five Lahore-bound trains left the city with all seats occupied, forcing Railways management to increase the number of coachers.

A senior Railways official said 70pc of seats are usually booked on Lahore-bound trains every day, but in the last two days 100pc of the seats had been booked a day earlier.

He said three coaches were added to each train, and each coach can accommodate 50 passengers. The train brought 690 passengers to Lahore from the twin cities every day.

Customers were seen at reservation offices and the railway station, trying to buy tickets, and buses were crowded as well.

Nazir Ahmed, whose flight to Karachi was cancelled due to the suspension of flight operations, said: “Train service is better than buses for families.”

He said he opted to catch a train because of how crowded other airlines were and the lack of seats. However, he added, train fares were not cheaper as he paid Rs6,190 per seat for his ticket.

Another passenger for Karachi, Nisar Ahmed, said it was difficult to get to Karachi because of the prevailing, tense situation.

“I have decided to go to Karachi by train to avoid waiting for restoration of air traffic. Although train travel is time consuming, it would be better than the buses,” he said.

A senior Railways official said there are typically fewer passengers in the winter, but more people had turned to train travel after the closure of airspace.

“Most people were curious about the timing of the trains, as the Green Line Karachi takes 21 to 22 hours to reach Karachi from Islamabad, but they were informed of the fixed times and speed,” he said.

He added that more people had travelled by train from the Rawalpindi division on Thursday. He said train timings have improved and passengers did not register any complaints about timings or engine faults.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2019