After a hiatus of three months caused by the devastating Pakistan floods, the railway route connecting Balochistan with the country has finally been restored. The Pakistan Railways started its operations on Sunday, connecting Balochistan, Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The Jaffar Express was the first train to leave the Mach station on Monday at 11 am with around 261 people on board. The train had stops at Sibi, Jacobabad, Sukkur, Rohri, Multan, Lahore, and Rawalpindi on its way to Peshawar.
Before, the Jaffar Express went from Quetta to Peshawar via Mach. The track between Quetta and Machh, which is about 50 km long, is no longer operating because floods washed away a key bridge at Harak in Bolan Pass earlier this year.
A senior PR official told the media that the bridge between Quetta and Mach was being fixed as quickly as possible but that it could take up to two months to reopen the section that goes on to Karachi.
So that work could start up again in Machh, the PR moved staff from Quetta and brought a train with nine new coaches from Lahore. The passengers bought their tickets at the Quetta train station and were moved to Mach in passenger coaches under tight security.
A senior Pakistan Railways official said that people would have to drive to Machh until the train service from the Quetta railway station was back up and running.
He said that shuttles to take people to Machh would be ready at the Quetta train station at 8 am every day. The deputy commissioner and 14 buses that will bring people from Quetta to Mach and back for three months have come to an agreement.
At the Machh station, more seats will be added for the comfort of travellers, and other amenities, like drinking water, have also been set up. A senior person in charge of public relations told Dawn that operations between Quetta and Karachi had not started up again because the Dadu-Kotri sections were still being fixed. After repairs, the Bolan Express was supposed to start running on the route, he said.
Flash floods washed away parts of the tracks in Sindh and Balochistan on August 21, which caused Pakistan Railways to stop running trains in different places. Rohri-Tando Adam, Padidan-Bhiria, Daur-Bandhi, parts of Bocheri-Nawabshah, and the Nawabshah yard were all affected by floods.
Flooding also disrupted trains between Sibi and Quetta, Dalbandin and Quetta, Kotri and Dadu (near Sehwan Sharif), Habib Kot and Sibi, Dera Murad Jamali and Notal. Signaling systems were also broken in several places because of flooding and power outages.
During the second week of August, train service was also stopped between Narowal and Sialkot because the Nullah Dek, which flows through held Kashmir, flooded and washed away the railway line.