Samjhota train resumes today: PR in a tizzy over incomplete fare list
By Khawaja Naseer
LAHORE: Pakistan Railways (PR) is finding it difficult to issue tickets for Indian stations because they do not have a complete list of fares from the Indian rail authorities.
Indians who came to Pakistan by bus or plane are also finding it difficult to get tickets. They have been told that they must contact the Indian embassy if they wish to change their mode of travel.
PR Chairman Khurshid Ahmed Khan confirmed to Daily Times on Wednesday that the fare list provided was incomplete, but added that the missing details were expected soon.
The list given to the PR, a copy of which was made available to Daily Times, gives distances to Ambala, Sharanpure, Delhi, Muradabad, Aligarh, Lucknow, Kanpur and Allahabad and a single column of fares. However, it doesn’t specify what class the fares are for. The previous list from 2001, when rail links were suspended, specifies fares for adults and children for first class seats, sleeper class seats, second class and second mail seats in both Indian and Paksitani rupees.
The officials contacted by Daily Times were unsure as to what kind of seat the fares given in the new list were for. They were worried this might create problems when Pakistan has to pay India for all the tickets sold from here.
However, the PR only started selling tickets on Wednesday morning, a day before the train was to restart, and had sold 32 of 700 available tickets by Wednesday afternoon. PR booking clerk Muhammad Hafeez, however, expected a big rush for tickets before the first train leaves Thursday morning at 8am. “Most passengers for India tend to be from Karachi and Hyderabad, and we expect to sell all the tickets when the Khyber Mail and Shalimar Express come in from Karachi,” he said.
Indian passengers looking to return on the Samjhota Express have been denied tickets. Sardar Dilhon Singh came to Lahore on the Dosti bus. He felt the bus was expensive, and came to Lahore station on Wednesday to buy a ticket on the Samjhota Express. “I was told that if I wanted to travel by train, I would have to contact the Indian consulate in Karachi and get the travel route on my visa changed from bus to train,” he said.
The customs and immigration office at the Lahore station was closed all day on Wednesday. Officials said the rail authorities of both countries would open check posts at Wagah where they would inspect passengers’ immigration papers and luggage. Passengers are allowed up to 50 kilograms of luggage. Many Indian passengers have used this to bring in lots of betel leaves and wedding dresses, while Pakistani passengers have taken spices and spare parts for electronic goods to India, one official said.
The Railways chairman reviewed the final arrangements for the resumption of the train service earlier on Wednesday. He and senior officials of the Central Board of Revenue visited the platform. Mr Khan said he was not in a position to talk about the economic advantages Pakistan would get from the restoration of the Samjhota Express, but hoped it would contribute to opening a new era of peace and prosperity for the two countries.