Islamabad Railway Station may be off-track soon

Published: January 31, 2011

Margalla Express, which was inaugurated in 2009, may no longer ply on the Islamabad to Lahore route. PHOTO: APP

ISLAMABAD: It is likely that the Pakistan Railway administration is going to close the Islamabad Railway Station because of “discouraging response from commuters”, The Express Tribune has learnt. The railway station, equipped with a computerised reservation system, was re-opened on a trial basis on April 21 the previous year.

According to the Station Manager, the Railway Ministry already closed the station’s morning service more than a month ago.  He said only a handful of commuters visit the reservation centre in a day, which makes it impossible for the already cash-strapped department to afford the low-revenue generating station’s maintenance expenses.

However, the ministry’s top officials are of the view that closing the station would put to waste millions of rupees worth of infrastructure. Director Operations Pakistan Railways Muhammad Saleem denied that there were any plans to shut down the station. When asked about the suspension of the morning service, he said he would respond after discussing the matter with higher officials.

The express service has two trains running in either direction from Islamabad and Lahore. The train travels from Islamabad to Rawalpindi then through Lalamusa to Lahore, transporting an average of 40 to 50 passengers over a distance of 300 kilometres every day. It has one stop at Rawalpindi. “The express travels at a speed of 105km/h and takes four hours and 30min to reach its destination,” informed the Station Master.

The station was established in 1979. The then Federal Railway Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo inaugurated the station on November 21 of the same year as Islamabad Railway Station. It served as the main link for shuttle trains travelling between Margalla and Rawalpindi. However, the service was suspended within a year because of a lack of passengers and financial constraints. Commuters were unable to use the service because of difficulties in accessing the station. In 1988, freight train services were restored at the station.

But again, the service was suspended and the station remained shut for about 29 years. While observing the manifold increase in the city’s population and commercial activities, the station was renovated and renamed as Islamabad Railway Station in 2009. It was expected that the station would meet the needs of students, employees and the general public, who are otherwise forced to catch trains from Rawalpindi. Addressing the inaugural ceremony on 13 May 2009, Minister for Railways Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour has said, “This station is meant to provide social service instead of generating revenue.” He had said that the public’s response had been very encouraging, in total contradiction to what the ministry has to say today. He had also pledged that the station would be linked to other cities of the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st,  2011.

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