PESHAWAR - The residents of Peshawar and Khyber Agency demanded the Federal Minister for Railways Khwaja Saad Rafiq restart Safari Train Service from Peshawar to Torkham via Khyber Pass.

The train service to Landi Kotal was suspended in 2006 after devastating flood badly damaged the British era railway track.

Talking to The Nation, Gul Saed a local businessman and resident of Khyber Agency said that Safari Train was the best alternate transport facility for the residents of Khyber Agency and Landi Kotal.

He said the train was also carrying trade goods to Afghan border and contributing handsome revenue to national exchequer. "Our elders are recalling those days when they were travelling to their area in Safari train," he wished.

He maintained that they are quite optimistic regarding restoration of this service and reconstruction of the damaged railway track. He said the railway track is already existed but it needs repairing and maintenance in some localities. 

Ahmad Nabi, a local journalist, also expressed the hope that the incumbent government would resume this the Safari Service to Landi Kotal as it is the need of time and long awaited demands of the people of this area.

He said that once there was a time that people were enjoying travelling to Khyber Agency via train but unfortunately the disconnection of railway track due to flood and poor law and order situation hindered the restoration of service. 

He said that now law and order situation is improved in Khyber Agency and the routes are safe for travelling if the government is serious in its restoration. He suggested that this service would also cut burden on Pak-Afghan route, which is frequently damaging due to load of heavy containers.

Wajidullah, resident of Peshawar, said that restoration of train service to Torkham border will not only boost the trade activities but will also reduce the pollution and road traffic on main Pak-Afghan highway.

He said that they were expecting improvement in Railways Department when Haji Ghulam Bilour took the charge but unfortunately he demonstrated zero performance. He instead of restoring this vital route had focused to recruit their well-wishers in the department, which further plunged the railways into deep crisis. He appealed to Federal Minister Khwaja Saad Rafiq to take emergency steps for its restoration, as this service will prove a panacea for Railways Department.

When this scribe contacted Khawaja Saad Raif via telephone, he was not responding despite continues attempts.

It may be recalled here that this railway track was officially opened on November 03, 1925 during the British rule in India. The wife of Victor Bailey, the engineer who was assigned the construction of the line, had previously driven the first train to Landi Kotal. After independence of Pakistan in 1947 a weekly train was started between Peshawar and Landi Kotal, running every Sunday. Train operations were stopped in 1982, as the railway was not commercially viable.

However, in the 1990s, a tourist train, the Khyber train safari, was launched by a private enterprise in collaboration with Pakistan Railways. It was later closed in 2006 after a flood washed away railway track and bridges.