LAHORE: Pakistan’s first-ever business train – with trappings of luxury, comfort and style – made its debut journey from the Lahore city station to Karachi on Friday even as Pakistan Railways struggles to chug out of cash crunch.
“The Pakistan business train is a landmark public-private venture and following this formula, the railways can work its way out of the financial crisis,” Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said while inaugurating the service.
The luxury service – complete with flatscreen TVs, wifi and lavatories that would put some British trains to shame – was launched in an effort to turn around the dire fortunes of Pakistan railways, and restore it to its former colonial glory, a daily Telegraph report said.
With a hoot and then a lurch, the 15:30 to Karachi pulled out of Lahore’s railway station bang on time and trailing tinsel.
The train is a joint venture of Pakistan Railways and a private company called MS Four Brothers.
The prime minister said that public-private partnerships had become a necessity in order to revive the country’s ailing economy.
The train will simultaneously leave stations in Lahore and Karachi at 3:30pm daily and reach its destination in 18 hours, including technical stopovers at Khanewal in Punjab and Rohri in Sindh. Journeying time is later to be reduced to 15 hours.
Along with an internet service, a paramedical staff of Rescue 1122 will also be available for passengers. A one-way ticket’s fare is Rs5,000 while a discount of Rs1,000 will be provided on round-trip bookings.
The private company has invested Rs225 million and will pay the railways around Rs1.5 million per trip and Rs1.148 billion per annum. An agreement has been signed for five years which is extendable to up to 10 years.