KARACHI, Jan 7: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz would inaugurate the Karachi-Rawalpindi 'Jinnah Express' train here on Monday, Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said on Sunday.

Speaking at a press conference, he claimed that it would be a modern train where facilities of dining hall, coffee hall and prayer would be provided to passengers. He said that this is 12th train, which was being launched while last and 13th train would be launched on March 23 as the 'track could not accommodate more trains.'

The minister said that around 50,000 passengers travel daily from the Karachi Cantonment station and the number of commuters was expected to be doubled in coming years.

He disclosed that Rs220 million have been earmarked for construction of three more platforms at the Karachi Cantonment railway station.

He disclosed that the Pakistan Railways was planning to erect 'protective walls' from the Karachi Cantonment railway station to the Landhi railway station to save precious lives as around 100 people get crushed under the train every year.

He revealed that the railways would introduce a mass transit system in 8 cities of the country as the Karachi Mass Transit System and the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) have also been handed over to the PR.

He announced that an alternative railway track would be laid on the Hyderabad-Mirpurkhas track, which would reduce travel time upto 50 minutes. Similarly, another alternative track would be laid on the Kotri-Malir (Karachi) track, which would reduce travel time upto 45 minutes.

Sheikh Rashid said that all these facilities would be provided prior to next general elections. He said that concerted efforts were being made to bring travel time between Lahore to Karachi upto 12 hours 'prior to next polls.'

He said that the railways would set up sub-office in Karachi for the KCR.

The minister declared that all 'buildings' close to the railway tracks would be demolished in the city with the help of the Sindh government and the City District Government Karachi to pave way for '100-feet oil track. This was despite the fact that the railways land had been encroached upon to establish National Highway Authority offices at the Drigh Road railway station and some parts of the TPX are being cleared to meet the security concerns of a diplomatic mission in Karachi.

The minister said that the Karachi Cantonment railway station and the Karachi City railway station would be made 'model station'.

He lamented that heritage was damaged at the Cantonment station during its repair work. He promised to restore the heritage declared buildings to its original shape.

To a question about the damaged railway bridge near Ran Pathani caused by recent heavy rains in the Sindh province, the minister claimed that the FWO had repaired it, which would be reopened within few days.

He claimed that number of passengers was increased upto 2 million in the out-going year.

The minister did not talk about reviving the train service to Badin.

He also did not give satisfactory answers to questions pertaining to the lack of progress on the KCR and the failure of the PR to give the announced relief package to its employees.

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