ISLAMABAD: Introduced to provide a tour of the capital’s picnic spots, the tourist train service has achieved little in its six weeks of operation due to revisions in its original plan.
A project of Capital Development Authority (CDA) Tourism Department, the Margalla Mini Tourist Train was launched to attract picnickers, who had otherwise lost interest in these places due to terrorist attacks in the country. The project was launched on July 25 at a cost of Rs36 million. The train is travelling on different routes at the speed of 20 to 25km per hour.
The service aimed to promote tourist activities in the capital at nominal rates. However, the proposed plan has not been fully implemented. Whereas the train offers a new experience for picnickers, changes in the proposed plan have made many tourists reluctant to travel on it.
The initial routes planned for the train included tourist spots like Kashmir Highway, National Monument, Zero Point, Faisal Mosque, Zoo, Japanese Park, Saidpur Village, Jinnah Super Market, 7th Avenue and F-9 park. Of these, F-9 park, Saidpur Village, Shakarparian and Pakistan Monument.
The fares, Rs150 for adults and Rs100 for children, were increased to Rs200 for adults and Rs150 for children. The promised facilities of souvenir shops, benches, ramps and wheel chairs for special persons are yet to be established. Moreover refreshments in Japanese Park, street performances and photo booths at midpoints with on board quiz for children at the end of the journey are missing.
However, the train is a convenient option for many, as public vans do not plough these routes. The train is providing an opportunity to people to visit these places with their families without having to drive.
“I love natural beauty and travelling through the train provides a beautiful view of Margalla Hills and the greenery of Islamabad,” said Sonia Iqbal, a resident of sector G-7.
Whereas it provides entertainment to nature enthusiasts, some have raised concerns over the increased fares. Muhammad Tariq, a visitor, said, “The fare [becomes too high] for an average family of eight to ten members.”
Maria Khan, also on the train, said, “The seats are uncomfortable and the train does not stay at tourists spots for long. It should stay for at least half an hour at each picnic spot so we can enjoy the trip.” “We usually hear about such trains in Europe but I was pleasantly surprised to see it in sector F-6,” added Iram Khan, a resident of sector G-11.
Deputy Director Tourism, Saeed Ahmed, said the train is in an experimental phase, and they will work to enhance its features.
Ahsan Ali Malik, in-charge of the Mini Tourists Train, said the main purpose behind the launching of the train is to promote tourism in the capital. He said after the successful launch of the tourist train, CDA will soon launch a Double Decker bus service for tourists of the twin cities.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2011.
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