News First Business Express reaches Karachi from Lahore

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•°o.O Born to Fly O.o°•
Mar 5, 2010
KARACHI: Pakistan's first Business train reached Karachi fifteen minutes before the scheduled time from Lahore on Saturday, Geo News reported.

As part of first private investment of millions of rupees in the ailing state railways, the Business Express reached Karachi cantt station at 9:45am, 15 minutes ahead of the scheduled time. The train left Lahore at 3.30pm on Friday for its first journey.

Thirteen carriages have been lovingly restored into a sleek sleeper to ply the 1,200 kilometres (800 miles) between Pakistan's two biggest cities, Lahore and Karachi, on an 18-hour journey that once used to take upwards of 30 hours.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said it is Pakistan's most luxurious and expensive train.

For Rs5,000 one way, or Rs9,000 return, passengers were waited on by a bevy of attentive stewards, as they settle down to watch films on flat-screen TVs or power up laptops.

The new train pulled away five minutes early and customers boarded from a brand-new business lounge at Lahore station. Decorated in tinsel, the engine then ground to a halt 10 minutes later to pick up more passengers.

Gilani congratulated staff on what he called a "deluxe" and "state of the art" service that would serve as a trail blazer for future private-public partnerships capable of turning around Pakistan's depressed economy.

"It's a big, big initiative from the private sector, which we have welcomed with open arms," Arif Azim, the chairman of Pakistan Railways, told.

Years of decline saw customers flock to airlines and luxury coaches.

Azim hopes that if the Business Express, and a similar service to be rolled out on February 20 between Lahore, the textiles centre of Faizalabad and Karachi, are a success then investors will sink millions more into saving the railways.

"The sky's the limit because we're in a pretty bad shape. We need a totally new fleet. 75 percent of our wagons can be described as vintage," he said.