Islamabad Express, Pakistan
Pakistan has restarted a daily express service from the Margalla railway station in the capital, Islamabad. The train service at the station was shut down for 29 years.
Islamabad’s population growth and increase in commercial activities have seen services restart at Margalla station. The station has been renovated and renamed Islamabad Railway Station. Islamabad commuters can now avoid the need to travel to the city of Rawalpindi to travel to Lahore.
On 13 May 2009, the Islamabad express shuttle service was officially launched. 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, covering a distance of 300km. It has one stop at Rawalpindi.
Islamabad and Lahore are also connected by the 367km M-2 motorway. Private companies such as Sammi Daewoo Express and Skyways Transport Services provide direct bus services to and from Lahore and Islamabad or to Rawalpindi.
The Margalla station was opened on 21 November 1979. Mohammad Khan Junejo, the then federal railway minister, inaugurated the station. It served as a main link for shuttle trains travelling between Margalla and Rawalpindi.
The service was suspended within a year because of a lack of passenger numbers. Commuters could not use the service because of a lack of proper access or public transport to the railway station. In 1988, freight train services were restored at the station.
The Islamabad Express was run on a trial basis from Lahore to the Islamabad Railway Station from April 2009. Federal Minister Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour inaugurated the service in May 2009 stating that the trial service received an encouraging response. Reopening the station was primarily a social service than a source for generating revenue, the minister said.
The train service between Islamabad and Lahore will be expanded depending on the success of Islamabad Express, Bilour added. The express travels at a speed of 105km/h and takes four hours and 30min to reach its destination.
The express train numbers have been changed from 107-Up/108-Dn to 101-Up/102-Dn. The express service is operated by Pakistan Railways, a state-owned railway company. It is administered by the Pakistani Government's ministry of railways.
The locomotives on the route are provided by Dong Fang Electric Corporation of China. The Islamabad-Lahore route operates ten coaches.
The reopening of the Islamabad railway station paves the way for the station to connect train services to all parts of the country. Pakistan railway authorities are working to improve facilities and service at the station to attract more passengers. Computerised ticketing services and e-ticketing are being planned at the station.