MIRPUR (AJK) – The Northern Areas Transport Corporation is all set to launch a model bus service in Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Monday.

These nonstop luxury air-conditioned buses will ply the Mirpur-Chakothi via Muzaffarabad, Mirpur-Islamabad and Neelam valley-Islamabad via Muzaffarabad roads in response to the invitation of the AJK Transport Authority, the AJK Transport Authority sources said.

"The first inaugural NATCO bus will leave from the general bus stand of Mirpur at 4.00 in the morning on October 22 for Chakothi via Muzaffarabad and Islamabad. And it will be back to Mirpur at 11.00 pm the same day from Muzaffarabad,” said Secretary  AJK Transport Authority Adil Mahmood Khan.

The service would be launched through a formal inaugural ceremony to be held at the General Bus Stand Mirpur at the wee hours on Monday. “On the special directives of AJK Prime Minister Abdul Majeed and Minister for Transport Tahir Khokhar, not only the urban population of two major AJK districts, but also the people hailing from the remote areas en-route  Chakothi and the top mountainous Neelam valley will take benefit from the service,” said Khan on a query about future plans about launching of service in rest of the districts of AJK.

`Earlier, the NATCO bus service was to be launched from September 20 but it was delayed because of the incompletion of required arrangements including the establishment of latest stands in Mirpur, Muzaffarabad and Islamabad,” the minister said.

"Now the service will start on Monday as final touches have been given to kick off the new service," according to the Secretary Transport Authority. “Later on, the network would be expanded to rest of the AJK districts in phases,” he said quoting the proposed plan for providing most safe and comfortable traveling facilities to the AJK population.

Elaborating the daily schedule of the bus service, the secretary said that from Mirpur, the NATCO bus service will leave from General Bus Stand for its stipulated destinations four times a day. Similarly from Muzaffarabad, the bus service will leave for its stipulated destinations including Mirpur and Islamabad from hotel Neelam View Chowk four times a day for its destinations on way back to their respective destinations from Chakothi and Neelam valley including Mirpur and Islamabad respectively.

The secretary further said that in the second phase, the NATCO bus service was proposed to be introduced from Mirpur to Islamabad Airport to facilitate the local British Kashmiris. Khan said that the second phase of the plan also involved the proposed introduction of direct bus service to and from Mirpur for Lahore and Karachi and to and from Muzaffarabad for Lahore and Karachi.

He stated that the beginning of the services was aimed at providing safe and comfortable traveling facilities. He said that the AJK Transport Authority moved to translate in to reality the much awaited plan for introduction of comfortable and safe traveling.