Media The government is also eyeing increased freight trade. With national elections scheduled for July and with the economy facing headwinds due to widening external deficits, Pakistan wants to increase exports to China, Iran, Turkey, Media Afghanistan and even arch-rival India through rail links, according to plans seen by Bloomberg media.
However, many of the routes are still dilapidated and regular travelers talk about avoiding rats and trying to stay comfortable in packed carriages with hard wooden benches. On the Karachi-bound Awam Express from Peshawar on April 1 the air-conditioning broke down in one of the coaches in the Media stifling heat.
Along with decades of under-investment, the rail company has also suffered from ingrained graft. The corporation sacked “a lot” of officials involved in procurement scams in recent years, Agha said, without providing details. She noted the organization is now staffed by “people of good repute.”
“Corruption could be a big challenge for this project,” said Muzzammil Aslam, the chief executive officer at brokerage firm EFG Hermes Pakistan Ltd. But if implemented “it will make transportation cheap and competitive.”
Security is also a concern. Since 2000 at least 96 people have been killed and 480 injured in 137 attacks on Pakistani trains, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal. A bomb blast in October wounded five passengers in the restive southwestern province of Balochistan. To bolster safety, authorities have raised a special security force of 700 commandos and deployed extra police to the trains in the past four years.
Back on the Green Line, passengers say they enjoyed the ride as it pulled into its final stop on time at 8 p.m., despite an hour-long delay due to a fatality on the track.
“We have taken three to four trips so far and it looks better now,” said Asma Rafique, a 45-year-old housewife travelling onward to Peshawar. “With Chinese investment Pakistan Railways can be the best.”