Two Trains That Connect India and Pakistan
India and pakistan were one nation and travel was easy. But after 1947 all links were cut including rail lines. Now two trains have again been restored and the rail links restored
Connecting India and Pakistan
Kushwant Singh the foremost writer in English in India wrote a novel Train to Pakistan. That was set during the background of the partition and involved a train going from Amritsar to Lahore.
That was a work of fiction, but India and Pakistan were one and frequent trains ran between Lahore, Karachi Mumbai and Delhi. The Frontier mail ran from Bombay via Delhi, Amritsar, and Lahore to Peshawar. Similarly trains ran from Jodhpur to Karachi across the Thar Desert
At that time the Jodhpur- Karachi rail link was a meter gauge link and the train ran everyday. The distance is about 700 km and the trains took about 22 hours then. After partition the Jodhpur Karachi train still ran though its frequency was reduced. However the 1965 war changed all that. The enmity between the two countries resulted in the train being discontinued.
The discontinuation of the train from Karachi to Jodhpur caused great hardship to the people on both sides of the border as many families lived on both sides of the border. However after the visit of general Mushraff an agreement was initialled to have some confidence building measures between the two countries and one of these was restoration of trains to Pakistan. There were two trains agreed to and the first which was started immediately was the Samjahuta express between Amritsar and Lahore.
The Thar Express
The Thar Express
The second train to be started was the Thar express between Jodhpur and Karachi a distance of about 700 km across the Thar Desert and Sind. This however took some years extra as the track from India to Pakistan was in disuse for over 40 years and to restore it would take time. The track was repaired in 2006 and the train commenced. It is a weekly train and connects Jodhpur to Karachi. The train runs once a week either way leaving Karachi at 2300h or reaching Jodhpur the next day at 2100h.
The train journey commences from Karachi cantt station. This is one of the oldest railway stations in Pakistan and work was commenced by the British in 1896 and the station completed in 1898 at a reported cost of 80,000 rupees. During British days the station was named Frère Street Station. It is the main station of Pakistan rail and the Thar express moves from here. The train travels nonstop to zero point on the border of Pakistan and all custom and immigration formalities are completed there.
The train than slowly crosses the international border and stops at Munabao a small Indian town on the Indian side of the border. I have been to Munabao when I was posted at Uttarlai close to Barmer at no 5 Forward Base Supply unit. Munabao is well developed and the people are delighted with the train as relatives live on both sides of the border.
The train leaves Munabao and slowly moves to Jodhpur reaching there by night. The train docks at Bhagat ki kothi (Jodhpur station) and the passengers are allowed to disembark. The fare from Karachi to Jodhpur is about Rs 500 and is cheap. Poor people can travel by this train. The Train leaves Bhagat ki kothi at 01 am and reaches Munabao in the morning. It hits Karachi back by 0215. However the train usually runs a couple of hours late as the Indians carry out stringent checks.
The Samhjauta Express
The second more famous train is the Samjahuta express that runs between Lahore and Delhi. Lahore station was built by the British in 1859-60 and is older than Bombay. The Samjahuta express plies from Lahore to wage s border and stops at Atari station. All custom formalities are completed there and after Attain the train runs non stop to Delhi jn. For people who are not aware Atari is named after the legendary Sikh warrior Sham Singh Atari of the court of maharajah Ranjit Singh. Due to political problems the Indians have started terminating the train at Atari. One can however travel faster by the AC luxury bus from Lahore direct to Delhi.
The rakes are on a sharing basis and for six months the Pakistan railway rakes are used and for 6 months Indian rakes are used.
Both the trains are a landmark in Indo- Pakistan ties and one realises that the links between the two nations are stronger than realized.