BAHAWALPUR: The South Punjab (SP) Secretariat is considering launching a new initiative for the recreation of the people of district headquarters in the region.

Dawn learnt that the Secretariat may act on a novel proposal to establish ‘rail cafes’ or ‘rail restaurants’ at four places in the refurbished railway coaches to be parked outside the important cities’ railway stations, namely Bahawalpur, Baghdadul Jadid (in Bahawalpur city), Multan and Dera Ghazi Khan in the South Punjab.

It may be mentioned that such a rail café is functioning in a parked railway coach outside the Karachi City Railway Station for the residents of Karachi.

Bahawalpur-Lal Sohanra safari train also under consideration

Talking to Dawn, South Punjab Additional Chief Secretary (ACS) Saqib Zafar said the new initiative was aimed at providing a collective sitting place for the families or groups of friends to sit and enjoy a variety of fast food, meals and other types of entertainment inside well- furnished railway coaches.

These coaches will be decorated with different murals and paintings, he said and added that the cities like Bahawalpur, Multan and Dera Ghazi Khan had historical backgrounds with a lot of hidden treasures.

“The Baghdadul Jadid Railway Station (Bahawalpur) located on the abandoned Sammasatta-Bahawalnagar railway section (before the Partition in 1947 leading onward to Bathindha in India) has a historic significance and it has ample space outside its old still intact building to park the railway coach for the purpose.”

Mr Zafar said the Pakistan Railways officials have already placed four refurbished passenger coaches at the disposal of the South Punjab Secretariat, adding that required amusement and recreation facilities for the visitors would be made in them through a notification soon. Besides, the details of the contracts to the fast food chains and other such important decisions were yet to be taken by the secretariat before the shifting of the railway coaches to their destined stations and locations in due course of time, he added.

It may be recalled that the South Punjab Secretariat is also currently working on another proposal to introduce a Safari train from Bahawalpur to the Lal Sohanra National Park on the 35km long abandoned Sammasatta-Bahawalnagar railway track to promote tourism.

ACS Zafar said the feasibility report was being prepared and Bahawalpur Deputy Commissioner Irfan Ali Kathiya was already embarked on this project.

It is proposed the Safari train would run once or twice a week from Bahawalpur to Lal Sohanra Railway Station via Sammsatta and Baghdadul Jadid railway stations, passing through the Dera Bakha Railway Station.

The missing facilities at the dilapidated buildings of Sammasatta, Baghdadul Jadeed and Lal Sohanra railway stations would be provided and the structures would be repaired and to give a better look for the tourists. The venture has a potential for promotion of tourism, fetching huge income for the government.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2022

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