`Like water shortage, garbage disposal and a bad sewerage system, transport, too, is a major issue of Karachi.
How many buses can you run on these roads becoming narrower because of them?` said President Dr. Arif Alvi while speaking at the inauguration of the new local train at the Cantonment Railway Station Karachi recently.
The first local train service from Karachi to Dhabeji starts on Thursday morning.
Pakistan Railways is starting out with two trains initially. As the first one withnine carriages leaves from the City Station at 7am for Dhabeji, there will be the second train leaving for Karachi simultaneously from the other direction, Dhabeji. The trains will leave again from the two stations at 5.30pm. The train, making stops at Malir, Drigh Road Junction, Bin Qasim, Pipri and Gaddar stations and Dhabeji, is said to primarily facilitate the labour force of Karachi who currently have to pay too much in fares to get to their places of work from home.
President Alvi recalled his childhood and student days at the Cantonment Public School when he used to take the local train or the tram to get to school. `We started experiencing traffic congestion after the tram service was wrapped up and things only became worse after the Karachi Circular Railway too stopped its service.
Then the railways also started selling its assets. It was going in the opposite direction when compared to international train ser-vices. There, be it overhead trains or the tube, they really benefit the cities. Here we even transport freight through roads as the goods train system is also no longer working,` he said.
He also pointed out that the Dhabeji stop was thought of as necessary keeping in mind the Pakistan Steel Mill workers.
`A train also needs to be on time,` he said.
`When you commute by bus, it isn`t that big a problem if you miss one as you can always take the next one. But here the trains should leave on time and arrive on time. Marketing, too, is important as an empty train would otherwise be making a loss. A full train, on the other hand, will make a profit,` he added, while also urging Pakistan Railways to revive the Karachi Circular Railway. `It will serve as a backbone for CPEC.
`Efficiency and capacity can make your local trains and your goods train make a profit,` he said. `And if this local train runs successfully, there is the private sector also waiting and watching to be a part of this venture but you have to make your railway feasible with clean governance,` he said.
Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that the Rs80 fare set for the train may be lowered to Rs70. He also said that after the two trains find success with commuters, they may also bring in a third one to fulfil demand besides starting the Sukkur Express, which he has also promised. `Pakistan Railways will move the nation ahead,` he said.
Train drivers Driver Mohammad Saleem and assistant driver Shah Zaman Khan in their crisp white and black uniforms happily watched the inauguration programme from their engine window. The train and engine on the newer platform 8 of the station was decorated nicely.
`The engine was decorated at the locomotive shed and the carriages were decorated on the wash-line,` provided assistant driver Shah Zaman. His boss, driver M. Saleem, said that the nine carriages had a 1,000 to 1,500 capacity. `And that`s the seating capacity.Localtrains are also known to have commuters who don`t mind travelling while standing,` he said, adding that there were air-conditioned carriages too.
Railway scouts As smartly dressed as the train drivers were Railway Scouts Mohammad Salahuddin, Sohail Jafri, Shaikh Farid, Khalid and Sajid. All proudly watched the decorated train before them. `We hope the trains are accepted by the public who start using them instead of public transport. The 1,000 to 1,500 commuters on each local train would mean so manyless rickshaws, taxis and buses on the roads, which in turn would mean less congestion and less pollution.
Public`s response Mukhtiar Shah watching the activity from a footpath across the new platforms could only see a part of the engine. When informed about the local train, he said he had no idea that it was making a comeback. `I remember there used to be a local train taking people all over the city. Is it the same thing?` he asked to be told that the new train won`t be moving inside the city. `I hope they can clean up the old train tracks too to bring them into the route also,` he said, adding that at the moment he spent about Rs60 per day to commute between work and home.
Hasnain, a student travelling to the northern areas, said that he would certainly take the local train to his college if it could go there. `But the stops mentioned for the train right now don`t fall in my way. Also Rs. 80 per day is more than I spend on bus fare,` he said.