RAWALPINDI: After 56 days, train service resumed on Wednesday from Rawalpindi Railway Station, as per standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the government for Karachi, Lahore, Quetta and other areas of the country.

More than 1,600 passengers on Wednesday travelled to different parts of the country from Rawalpindi. The first train, Pakistan Express from Rawalpindi to Karachi left Rawalpindi at 6am, Rail Car to Lahore left at 7am, Tezgam from Rawalpindi to Karachi left at 8am, Awam Express from Peshawar to Karachi via Rawalpindi at 12:10pm, Jaffar Express to Quetta at 3:30pm, Mehar Express to Multan at 5pm, Rail Car to Lahore at 6pm, Khyber Express from Peshawar to Karachi left at 2am while Milat Express from Lala Musa to Karachi via Sargodha left at 9:15am and Green Line to Karachi departed at 3:15pm.

Pakistan Railways Divisional Superintendent Syed Munawar Shah supervised the opening of train service at the station, to ensure implementation of SOPs issued by the government.

A special desk had been established to sell masks and sanitisers to passengers. No passenger was allowed to enter the coaches without wearing a face mask and carrying a hand sanitiser. Before departing, all coaches were disinfected and anti-germ chemicals were sprayed on the platforms. No visitor alongside any passenger, was allowed to enter the railway station and tickets were sold online. Some passengers were of the view that tickets should be sold at counters, as mostly people did not know how to purchase tickets online.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Shah said: “Due to closure of ticket sales 24 hours ago, most people failed to avail the travelling facility. Federal Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed directed to close online booking of tickets, one hour before departure of the train.”

He said that 60pc of seats are allowed to be filled in the coaches, so that social distancing could be adopted. No passenger without a face mask allowed to travel in the train, he said, adding train service would pick up momentum in the coming days, as mostly people contacted the railway offices, for booking tickets during Eid holidays.

He said that to facilitate passengers, an information desk has been established at the station. “Online booking facility was improved and passengers will get safe and secure travelling facility,” he added.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2020