India cites lack of occupancy, cancels Samjhauta Express
India on Thursday decided to suspend operations of the Indo-Pak Samjhauta Express from March 4, on its side due to drastic decline in occupancy especially after the Pulwama terror attack and the suspension of the decade-old train services from across the border.
The Samjhauta Express runs from New Delhi on Wednesdays and Sundays. From Pakistan side, the train departs from Lahore on Mondays and Thursdays.
On Wednesday, only 27 passengers boarded the train. As many as 375 passengers availed the train service in February. The sources said the footfall on the train, which generally records an occupancy of around 70 per cent, has fallen drastically post the Pulwama attack on February 14 in which 44 CRPF jawans were martyred.
At least 40 passengers from both countries are believed to be stranded at Attari, the sources said.
Pakistan had on Wednesday cancelled the train’s trip on the Wagah-Lahore stretch on its side, even as 27 passengers — 23 Indians and three from the neighbouring country — arrived at Attari from Delhi on an Indian rake which left the Old Delhi Railway station at 11.20 pm on Wednesday night.
The Wagah station master sent a message to his Attari counterpart that the passenger and parcel train which comes to Attari station from the Pakistan side at 12.30 pm will not be coming till further notice, officials said.
Originally, the train offered a through service with one rake going all the way between the terminals – Delhi in India to Lahore in Pakistan. However, now a Pakistani rake stops at Attari at which point passengers have to change trains and board an Indian rake.
Earlier in the day, a Pakistan Foreign Office (FO) spokesman said in a statement the operations of the train had been suspended on Thursday “in view of the prevailing tensions between Pakistan and India.”
The biweekly train was scheduled to depart from Lahore with 16 passengers. “Samjhauta Express will resume its operations as soon as the security situation improves between India and Pakistan,” the FO said, not giving any specific date for resuming the services.
The Samjhauta Express, named after the Hindi word for “agreement”, comprises six sleeper coaches and an AC 3-tier coach. The train service was started on July 22, 1976 under the Shimla Agreement that settled the 1971 war between the two nations.
Friday, 01 March 2019 | PNS | New Delhi
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