LAHORE / QUETTA: Three months after devastating floods damaged the railway infrastructure in Balochistan, Pakistan Railways on Sunday restored train operations linking the province with Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Jaffar Express became the first train to leave Mach railway station at 11am, carrying 261 passengers. The train will reach Peshawar via Sibi, Jacobabad, Sukkur, Rohri, Multan, Lahore and Rawalpindi.
Previously, Jaffar Express used to run between Quetta and Peshawar via Mach. However, the track between Quetta and Machh — a stretch of around 50km — has been rendered useless since a key bridge at Harak in Bolan Pass was washed away by floods earlier this year.
A senior PR official also told Dawn the rehabilitation of the bridge between Quetta and Mach was being fast-tracked but it may take up to two months to reopen the section, which further extends to Karachi.
In order to resume the operation from Machh, the PR shifted staff from Quetta and a train comprising nine new coaches was brought from Lahore.
The passengers had booked their tickets from Quetta railway station and were shifted to Mach in passenger coaches under tight security.
A senior PR official said until train operations from the Quetta railway station were not resumed, passengers would be transported by road to Machh.
The shuttles to take passengers to Machh will be available at Quetta railway station at 8am every morning, he said.
An agreement has been reached with the deputy commissioner for 14 buses to transport passengers from Quetta to Mach and back for three months.
Additional seats will be provided for the convenience of passengers at the Machh station while other facilities including drinking water have also been provided.
A senior PR official told Dawn that operations between Quetta and Karachi were not resumed due to ongoing repair of Dadu-Kotri sections.
The Bolan Express was expected to start running on the route after repairs, he added.
On August 21, Pakistan Railways had suspended the operations at various sections after flash floods washed away several stretches of the tracks, especially in Sindh and Balochistan.
The tracks affected by floods included Rohri-Tando Adam, Padidan-Bhiria, Daur-Bandhi, Bocheri-Nawabshah sections and Nawabshah yard.
Similarly, the Sibi-Quetta and Dalbandin-Quetta, Kotri-Dadu (near Sehwan Sharif) and Habib Kot-Sibi and Dera Murad Jamali and Jacobabad-Notal sections are also unfit for train operations due to floods.
Moreover, signalling systems at various spots were also dysfunctional due to inundation and power outages.
The train operations also remained suspended during the second week of August at the Narowal-Sialkot section after Nullah Dek originating from the held Kashmir overflowed and washed away the railway line.
However, the authorities had resumed the operation after rehabilitating the affected portion within a couple of days.
Meanwhile, APP, while quoting a senior PR official, reported that Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique has asked the department concerned to prepare a plan to restore all railway sections in the province.
The PR has also started rehabilitation work on the 33-kilometre track between Quetta-Bostan and Quetta-Chaman sections, the official told APP.
Talking about the state of railway tracks in the province, the official added most lines were more than 100 years old and on certain stretches, speed restrictions have been imposed due to deferred maintenance owing to resource constraints. However, steps were being taken to improve the infrastructure.
He added that the PC-I to rehabilitate railway tracks in the province has been approved, including a 100-km track between Ahmedwal and Dalbandin on the Quetta-Taftan section.
Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2022