Business Express, the first non-stop train between Karachi and Lahore, will start operations from February 3 in a public-private partnership venture.
The private sector company Four Brothers invested Rs225.79 million in the business train, which consist of 13 coaches including nine air conditioned coaches, two power vans, one luggage van and one brake van, said a Pakistan Railways official.
Pakistan Railways and Four Brothers International Private Limited signed an agreement on August 18, 2011 to operate the train between the capitals of Punjab and Sindh.
The train was initially scheduled to start operations within 120 days of the agreement but its inauguration was postponed as coaches could not be renovated to the standards of the private company in time.
One-way ticket costs between Rs5,000 to Rs6,000 while two-way ticket costs Rs9,000 and Rs11,000 depending on the class.
“All three classes offer the same facilities. Travel class depends on how early you pay and confirm your ticket,” says the official train website www.pakbusinessexpress.com. The ticket includes tea, snacks, breakfast and dinner. The contract for breakfast and dinner has been given to Pearl Continental, says a helpline official of Business Express.
Newspaper in the morning and unlimited supply of mineral water are some other services, he added.
Each cabin will have an LCD television with at least five channels along with charging points for laptop, mobile and other devices. The train is also working to offer internet service all along the journey.
The train will pay Rs1.57 million per single train journey and Rs1.15 billion annually to railways at the rate of 88% of carrying capacity of the train. The agreement will be extended for another term with the consent of both the parties.
The train will take 18 hours to start with, however, this will be brought down to 15 or 14 hours. This train will stop at Khanewal and Rohri railways stations for 20 minutes.
Reservations are underway at the business lounge adjacent to the Lahore Cantt Railways Station in Lahore, Karachi Cantt station, booking office of Railways headquarters along with the train’s official website. Home delivery of tickets is also available in Lahore for Rs100 and Rs200 in Karachi.
At present three trains – Farid Express, Rohi Express and Hazara Express – are commercially operated by Pakistan Railways Advisory and Consultancy Services (Pracs), an organisation formed by retired Railway officers.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 7th, 2012.