LAHORE, April 15: The government is considering a proposal to establish rail links with Afghanistan through Landi Kotal-Jalalabad and Chaman-Kandahar routes, according to Railway Minister Ghaus Bakhsh Mehr.

Talking to reporters after opening a new fast train, Faisal Express, between Lahore and Faisalabad on Tuesday morning, he said the Afghan government had expressed desire to establish rail links between the two countries during a Pakistani delegation’s recent visit to Kabul. Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz headed the delegation.

He added that the Pakistan Railways was ready to inter-link both the countries as and when the government would finalize the proposal. To a question, he said the railways was also ready to link Pakistan with Europe and Saudi Arabia through Iran, if Tehran would construct Zahidan-Kirman section.

Responding to another question, he said the institution would be made a corporation by the end of the current fiscal.

The minister said senior railway officials were being retired as usual, and there was no obstacle to the promotion of junior officials to higher posts. He, however, said as the institution needed technical experts, some of the retired officials were being hired on a six-month contract, but without usurping any one’s right (to promotion).

The recruitment to fill vacant posts had also been started. He said only those people, terminated in the past on corruption or other charges, who had secured orders from the public service tribunal or other courts were being reinstated.

Mr Mehr said he had been giving attention to introducing maximum fast trains on small routes to strengthen customer base of the institution. Budhal Faqeer Express and Sukkur Express in Sindh and Faisal Express in the Punjab had been introduced under this policy, he added.

Faisal Express, comprising 10 coaches, will be the 18th train to shuttle between the two towns, and will take less than two hours. The train will leave Lahore at 6:45am and reach Faisalabad at 8:30am. It will start its journey back to Lahore at 9:35am.

Meanwhile, the railways management has decided to double operations of 349-Up/350-Down passenger train running between Quetta and Chaman from April 21.

The train will run on all the days except Sunday. Its earlier is Monday, Thursday and Saturday.

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