Pak Business Express Train - good, but far from great
In terms of providing the ideal train travel experience, the Pak Business Train is not quite there yet.
Recently, I travelled through the Pak Business Express train that runs between Karachi and Lahore and is a comparatively new venture within the railway scene of Pakistan. Don't cringe yet; this was all before the recent protests where passenger trains were set on fire and before Pakistan Railways temporarily suspended services of trains travelling from Lahore to Rawalpindi.
I was accompanied by over 70 people, all headed to Islamabad via Lahore to attend the reunion of YES students. Our tickets were pre-funded and averaged Rs10,oo0 per person for a round trip. I remember receiving the tickets and being in the doldrums at the thought of spending 18 hours in the train, but to my surprise the train ride wasn’t all that bad.
However despite LCD equipped and air-conditioned cabins, Pak Business Express still has a long way to go before it can pull off the ‘World Class Lahore to Karachi Travelling’ tagline.
First of all, the administration needs to focus on punctuality. The departure from Karachi was three hours late and the departure from Lahore was delayed by an hour and a half. The wait in Karachi was still bearable because the air conditioners worked and the abundance of courteous staff made sure to serve everyone tea and refreshments. However, waiting for the train in Lahore was nothing short of excruciating; the so-called cafeteria didn’t have chilled water or drinks and the air-conditioners refused to work in the scorching heat of Lahore.
I suggest that if the train is expected to be late, passengers must be informed in advance - especially if the administration continues to keep the air-conditioners and cafeterias only for decoration purposes.
On the way to Lahore, the train was comparatively neat; the bedding looked dry-cleaned and the berths didn’t stink. Food was served hot and in bulk– it didn't taste too bad either! I believe that a tad bit of manipulation in the breakfast menu could have really made a positive difference. Toasted bread would have been nicer, for example, than the untoasted slices we received. The parathas that we received were cold and chewy. Maybe a bun akin to the one served by PIA would be a more economical and tasty option.
The air-conditioning, though, made it increasingly cold at night when even multiple blankets failed to help the shivering passengers in my cabin. When we asked the staff to turn the air-conditioning down, first they didn’t respond clearly and on being asked again, we were told that nothing could be done about it because the technicians were asleep!
Furthermore, a whole lot of excessive food was dumped right off the train when it could have fed so may people at the Rohri or Khanewaal station– I could only cringe at this blatant display of unethical business practice.
Coming back from Lahore turned into a nightmare right after we boarded the train– five of our cabins were double booked and the staff wasn’t accommodating at all. Though we retained four of our double booked cabins, the journey back to Karachi was still not pleasant. The bedding was stained and smelly, the cabins weren't clean, the door knob of our cabin was broken, the food was cold and tasted awful, the internet didn’t work, and the staff was indifferent to our concerns.
As wonderful as the idea of this business express train between Lahore and Karachi is, it’s very important to keep up its quality for its successful running and a revival in Pakistan’s railway scene. Even slight negligence from the administration and flaws in services could really upset the passengers because people are already quite discontented with the Pakistani railway system.
While I would recommend that everyone give this new project a shot despite its glitches, I also suggest that the administration of the Pak Business Express train should take notice of its shortcomings.
Read more by Komal Ali here.